“Means Testing” is a unique U.S. Idea
Like the uniquely barbaric U.S. slavery system and its Jim Crow aftermath, means tested medical care is a unique and racist idea designed to keep African Americans from accessing government funded medical care. President Johnson could not move Medicare through congress without support of segregationist Southern Democrats in the Senate and House. Their concern was that Medicare alone would be expanded to cover younger ages over time and transformed into a universal, single payer.
By forcing Johnson to add means tested, poor peoples medicine, administered by states, former slave states with a residual planter economy and subhuman wages for black workers, could make qualification for eligibility so onerous that African Americans could be kept in subhuman conditions without medical care. State control and the right to opt into the program allowed for arbitrary, racist, administration of the program. Bureaucrats could put obstacles in the path of applicants who would be required to prove they were poor enough and of high enough character to qualify for medical care.
That is the way it works to this very day – especially in states with large African American populations. To qualify for Medicaid in many states, poor people are required to prove they are so poor that even most low wage workers cannot qualify. Due to a glitch in Obamacare (actually due to a Supreme Court decision), people not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid are often too poor to qualify for Obamacare.
As opposed to our enlightened peer countries with advanced economic systems, medical care is not a right in the U.S. Given the horrific medical ethics that implies, one would think that the medical profession would be up in arms and fighting with vigor and intensity to move the U.S. medical system into the 21st Century. But it was the medical profession that originally teamed up with Southern Democrats to kill Harry Truman’s universal, single payer health care system. Overall, the professional medical system hasn’t changed much in that regard.
Conservatives – both Republican and Democrat conservatives – insist on making people prove they are too poor to buy medical care. Rather than provide medical care to people for no other reason than they need medical care, sick people or people who fear that they will not have care if they are sick are put through humiliating rituals and are constantly under threat of being kicked off the program. The subtext of the conservative narrative in that regard is that ordinary, wage earning, taxpaying citizens can’t be trusted – that they want something for nothing from the government or that they are lazy cheats. This stigmatization of poor people for medical purposes doesn’t apply to wealthy executives and investors who really are ripping off the system (see my last post).
I wish media outlets such as MSNBC and CNN would quit referring to Democrats insisting on means testing as “moderates.” The indignities of poor peoples medicine as a special category of care is an extremely conservative, backward, idea that has the foul odor of history.