Voting – Health Insurance – Poverty

I recently wrote a blog about a man named Thomas B. Hofeller. Before his death, Hofeller and his political consulting firm were hired by Republicans in 46 states, including Texas, to concoct gerrymandered voting maps and political strategies that helped Republicans get elected and stay in power. There is ongoing litigation in North Carolina concerning public access to Hofeller’s computer files because his documents are important evidence in ongoing and future litigation having to do with voting rights. It now appears that at least some of Hofeller’s files have made their way to the New York Times and The New Yorker. Manipulation of the election process is bad enough, but the lies told to cover it up make it even worse. For more details, read about it in an article published in The New Yorker on September 6th and the article “GOP Gerrymanderer And His Broad Reach” in the New York Times of September 11th.

 

Dark secrets and lies often don’t die. Hofeller may be speaking from the grave for a long time to come.

 

Speaking of the manipulation of elections, one of the many ways to suppress voter turnout is to close polling places. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle of 9/11, hundreds of polling places in Texas have been “shuttered”. Texas leads the nation in this respect. Texas has closed 750 polling places since 2012. This tactic is aimed at keeping minority voters from casting ballots. According to the Leadership Conference Education Fund, “. . . these closures have a cascading effect, causing long lines at polling places, transportation hurdles, denials of language assistance and mass confusion about where eligible voters may case their ballots. For many people, these burdens make it harder and sometimes impossible to vote.”

 

Shouldn’t we be making it easier rather than harder to register to vote and to actually cast a ballot?

 

Texas has also achieved another first. Texas has the largest number of people in the U.S. with no health insurance of any kind. More than 5 million Texans have no health insurance coverage. Unfortunately, Texas has led the nation for years, but our rate of uninsureds had actually declined slightly in 2016. This favorable trend ended when Trump and Republicans made a concerted effort to undermine (“implode”) the Affordable Care Act. Those efforts include removing the penalty for not having coverage and reducing budgets for enrollment efforts. In other words, Trump and Republicans are trying to “implode” the Affordable Care Act by starving it of healthy people. No insurance plan can succeed if only sick people buy  the coverage.  Texas has a 17.7% rate of uninsureds. The next closest are Oklahoma and Georgia.  The number of uninsured children rose by 400,000 across the nation.  For more about this, see the Houston Chronicle article of 9/11/19 by Jenny Deam.

 

It is probably our tendency to think that people without health insurance are going without medical care. That is only partially true. The uninsured are receiving whatever care they do receive at the least affordable place: the hospital emergency room. The high cost of that uncompensated care is then passed on to all of us in the form of higher rates for health insurance and taxes. There is no free lunch. There must be a better way.

 

Finally, despite a huge tax break for corporations and the wealthy and despite what is traditionally considered to be “full employment”, the poverty rate has barely budged. The rate nationally fell from 12.3% to 11.8%. The Texas rate fell slightly to 13.7% (3.8 million people). Poverty is defined as a household income of less than $25,464.00).

 

Medical bills were the largest contributor to increasing the number of individuals in poverty. 8 million people in 2018 fell into poverty due to medical expenses. The poor and the almost poor have the double whammy of being too poor to afford health insurance and being one illness away from financial catastrophe.

 

Ray Perryman, the most often cited economist in Texas, said: “Health care access for low income individuals is beginning to decline again, and the social safety net is under attack. A growing economy helps, but the benefits are not evenly distributed.”

 

So much for “a rising tide floats all boats”.