fresh voices from the front lines of change







Yesterday on CBS’ Face The Nation, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour applauded conservative Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller for opposing federal aid to his own state.

On what grounds? Because slashing state budgets in the middle of a recession is no big deal.

Gov. Barbour said: “As far as talking about less money [from Washington], look, my budget this year in Mississippi is 13% less than it was two years ago. I cut spending 9.7% last year. Frankly, nobody much noticed the difference. People weren’t kicked off Medicaid.”

Funny story: On the same day, Gov. Barbour said no one was kicked off Medicaid, the Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger headlined: “Medicaid winnows out some children.”

Not all children of course. Just some with Down syndrome:

Medicaid officials have begun to remove children with Down syndrome from the state rolls, leaving parents to find ways to pay for expensive physical, speech and occupational therapy.

Some parents say their children had been in Medicaid’s Disabled Child Living at Home program almost since birth before being removed.

Mississippi’s Disabled Child program, which has no income-eligibility requirement, rose from 939 in January 2007 to 1,251 in December. It was at 1,176 in July.

The decline comes at a time when Medicaid officials are scrambling to save money, facing an estimated $34 million shortfall.

Perhaps what Gov. Barbour meant was not that nobody is being kicked off, but that nobody is being told they’ve been kicked off:

Rosemary Moody of Philadelphia said her son, Andrew, first qualified for the Disabled Child program when he was 3 months old. Now he’s 10.

She said she didn’t know her son had been removed from the rolls until she went to get him new glasses. He has crossed eyes, and one eye shakes, she said. “I never received a letter saying he was kicked off,” she said.

She has talked with Medicaid officials, who have told her a psychologist must examine her son and do an IQ test.

She said she can’t afford the bill for the psychologist, much less more doctors, because her son has a history of pneumonia and dental issues.

State Medicaid officials haven’t announced a new policy. They simply claimed to the investigating journalists they are rigorously applying the old one.

So the Governor can try to claim no one is being kicked off of Medicaid in order to save money, when that’s exactly what is happening.

The entire notion of Gov. Barbour’s that “nobody much noticed the difference” after his huge spending cuts in a state where 1 out of every 5 residents lives below the poverty line — the highest poverty rate in the country — is ridiculous on its face.

Mississippi’s cuts have already slashed mental health services, deprived funding for schools in low-income communities and eliminated jobs. And Barbour thinks “nobody much noticed”?

This is the only way that conservatives can justify attacking efforts to stimulate the economy, and maintain essential government services during a protracted recession — by pretending government dollars are meaningless and wasteful.

At minimum, there are plenty of Mississippi children with Down syndrome who disagree.

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