Medicaid and taxes! Like many of you I have received my county tax bill and to my amazement more than half of the total bill is for Medicaid. That is just extreme. What exactly is Medicaid? And just who are the recipients of this government program that has caused an unfair burden to the taxpayer?
According to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, Medicaid is a program that pays for medical care for individuals and families with low incomes and those who are disabled. This program covers in excess of 60 million individuals nationwide, including 29.5 million children, 8.2 million people with disabilities, and 6.1 million seniors PLUS another 15.2 million adults - not children, not the disabled and not classified as seniors! The taxpayer is being held hostage by the costs of Medicaid, which is the major component in our property taxes. According to the Public Policy Institute of New York State, Inc., "in New York state the average family of four pays over $5,000 a year to keep this runaway train on its track. The costs for Medicaid in New York are more than twice the national average."
Statistics show that California and Texas together spend only slightly more than New York on Medicaid, while their combined population is nearly three times as great. If New York were to cut the cost of Medicaid from 2.25 times the national average to only two times the national average, we could save over $2.5 billion annually.
So why does Medicaid cost so much in New York? The answer is simple, we provide Medicaid coverage to a greater percentage of our population than most other states; approximately 17.4 percent of the state's population are Medicaid recipients. Who makes up this 17.4 percent? Many deserving individuals who have worked most of their lives, served our country, fallen on hard times, or who are confined in nursing homes and health care facilities where their insurance and retirement savings have been exhausted are included; and then there are children.
Our children are the most helpless and vulnerable among us and we need to take care of them and provide them with only the best that we possibly can. We have individuals right here in Chautauqua County who are disabled and unable to work, but would love to if they could; they are a part of this group. However, among this 17.4 percent we also have those who choose to not work. I heard a man say, "If the government can put a man on the moon they can take care of me." Like this man, there are many others who simply abuse the system. It is there for the taking. It is easy to do, and it beats working as a greeter at a store or flipping burgers.
Why should my tax dollars go to pay for those who can work, but choose not to? I listened to and watched an interview recently with a woman who had lost her job as a manager, but refused a job as a secretary because she felt it didn't take advantage of her advanced education degrees - she'd been out of a job for over a year! Her unemployment benefits had expired, she was collecting welfare and on Medicaid. I think I would gladly flip burgers; as a matter of fact I know I would! My pride wouldn't let me do otherwise.
You disagree? Well come ahead and bring it on! I have no problem helping those who are in need. Richard and I are very generous with our time as well as personal and monetary donations to the myriad of organizations and not-for-profit agencies that help those in need. But what has happened to the desire to take care of oneself? Pride is a valuable asset; people need to feel good about their accomplishments and the rewards for their hard work, even if it is working at McDonald's (which is a pretty good place to work for a lot of people).
It is wonderful there are programs for those in need, but we must clean up the abuse that has permeated the country's Medicaid program. This program is broken, unfairly distributed, and has become a crutch to far too many.
I recently called into an Access 5 television show and asked Chairman Frank "Jay" Gould of the Chautauqua County Legislature what, if anything, was being done about the Medicaid costs to taxpayers here in Chautauqua County. He didn't have an answer for me. I suggested that he form a committee to work on stopping the abuse on the front end rather than continue to fight with the State about which entity should collect it; he said he would look into it. Sadly, it appears this is such a huge problem that many just don't know where to begin.
I'll pay my taxes and the Medicaid mandate that is attached to the bill, and I will take personal pride in knowing that I have worked hard and earned the right to pay those taxes. I will not sit idly by and wait and watch, however. I will continue to call on my elected officials to take action in this matter; I hope each of you reading this commentary will do the same.
Have a great day.
Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to email@example.com