What happens when the GOP’s war on welfare comes for Medicaid

Think Progress

By: Amanda Michelle Gomez

Thomas Penister was uninsured for years after serving time in prison. In 2015, he applied for Medicaid coverage to see a primary care doctor as his mental health problems became debilitating. He was relieved to finally discover what was wrong: his doctor diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit disorder, severe sleep apnea (a common nighttime breathing disorder), and anxiety. Continued treatment of these illnesses allowed him to get his life back, he said. He’s still unable to work full-time, so he volunteers at a number of nonprofits with flexible work hours, like Urban Underground’s after-school program, to stay productive.

Now, Gov. Scott Walker (R) is trying to transition people like Penister off of Medicaid, as the insurance program was originally intended just for the disabled, elderly, pregnant persons, or children. To do so, he asked the Trump administrationto impose welfare-like restrictions like work rules and drug tests.

“It doesn’t make sense to run health insurance like a welfare program,” Joan Alker, Medicaid expert and executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, told ThinkProgress. “People’s health care needs don’t go away when you cut them out of the program.” For people to stay in good physical and mental health, they need to be continuously covered, she said. When people are in good health, they can support themselves.

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