This is one of those decisions that reveals a politician's priorities. When faced with the question of whether to extend emergency health care to survivors of Hurricane Katrina, where do you stand? For all their rhetorical compassion, many Republicans are trying to squirm out of covering essential medical and mental health services for the hurricane's neediest victims. CongressDaily (subscription only) reports this morning that "senators concerned about the cost of expanding Medicaid coverage to Hurricane Katrina victims blocked the chamber from voting Monday on a package that would cover state costs for victims' Medicaid expenses."
We have it from other sources that a "few senators" are not the only ones dragging their feet on delivering this crucial assistance to people who survived Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The Republican leadership of the House and the White House are both said to be balking at covering Medicaid expenses for the hurricane victims. The House leadership is moving ahead with a Bush administration proposal that is roundly opposed by health care and low-income community advocates as falling far short of what's needed . Republicans in the Senate are likely carrying the Bush administration's water by "wrangling" over a compromise bill proposed by a Republican and a Democrat that has been cheered by health care and low-income community advocates.
The sudden concern over poverty in America following Katrina has already faded from the headlines and glossy magazine covers. The challenge for the media is how to keep the conversation about poverty going now that it's taken the shape of a seemingly bureaucratic squabble in the halls of Congress. The hurricane victims need dialysis or medication for mental illness—these are not abstract issues. But how to fund the Medicaid program that covers these services can easily become so. Republicans who were so quick to assume the "compassionate conservative" mantle after Katrina are now hoping no one will notice their efforts to avoid paying for medical care for America's most vulnerable. Let them know you're paying attention. Learn more about the emergency Grassley-Baucus Medicaid package at Consumers' Union.
| Tuesday, September 27, 2005 10:59 AM