05/30/11 — The costs build: Medicaid cuts are not what we want, but it might be best idea

View Archive

The costs build: Medicaid cuts are not what we want, but it might be best idea

Americans want to take care of each other.

That's the reason that when there is a tragedy somewhere in this nation there is such an outpouring of support. We are generous to a fault.

So, it goes against our very nature to think that there might be a need to cut back on Medicaid benefits -- even if they are optional.

But the proposal to cut back on some benefits for those who need government assistance is not a sign that this state does not care. Instead, it is a realization that there is not an unending pot of money and that taxpayers simply cannot continue to give everybody everything they want.

There has always been a question about some of those who receive benefits of any kind.

For many, there is a real need -- a circumstance beyond their control that has made it necessary for them to take assistance. And for others, they see the government aid as temporary help. They would rather take care of themselves and provide for their families on their own -- and are working to make that possible.

Those are the people we should be helping.

But one of the reasons we have to look at measures to curb costs of Medicaid and other social programs is because of the number of people who have turned what was designed as temporary assistance into a lifestyle. Add the cheats, and fraud on the part of providers and beneficiaries, and you have a system that is simply out of control and very, very expensive.

And sad to say, it might be one we cannot afford.

Cutting back on some of the services provided by Medicaid allows the program to continue for everyone. It allows those who are truly in need the chance to get back on their feet.

But it is not the only answer.

We also need to crack down, hard, on those who abuse the system. The first time you are caught misusing the benefits given to you -- you should lose them.

Sending that message might make more people think before they trade food stamps or government vouchers for cash or use an ambulance for transportation to the hospital for a minor injury that could be seen in a doctor's office the next day.

And if there were more limits, perhaps those who seem not to care what they use their EBT cards for would use their benefits more responsibly with frugality in mind.

It is time for Americans to think hard about what their obligations should be to those who are receiving government aid. There is nothing wrong with demanding something in return -- responsibility, honesty and accountability. Government aid is not a right -- it is a privilege.

Perhaps if we were able to get the dishonesty out of the system, there would be more money for better programs. Maybe we could provide the means for more people to get back on their feet.

That is, after all, why the program was started in the first place.

Published in Editorials on May 30, 2011 10:53 AM