Our household is not part of Mitt Romney’s infamous 47% of voters who don’t pay taxes, and ergo are, in his words, people who are “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
No, we make a solid middle class income, and pay income taxes. We have never received any government assistance in the form of welfare or food stamps or health care or anything of that sort — the “Entitlements” of which the Mittster spoke.
Well, that is, we haven’t until recently.
Shortly after Clio was diagnosed with leukemia, we learned that she was eligible to receive assistance from MassHealth — the Massachusetts Medicaid program.
We have private insurance for our family, for which we pay over $1,100 a month (one of the many joys of being self-employed…). But MassHealth covers everything that our private insurance won’t cover for Clio, including her annual deductible and all prescription and doctor visit co-pays. It also gives us a rebate on what we pay for her portion of private insurance.
This year alone, it will probably save us close to $10,000. Which makes a huge difference, especially given that both of us are working less than usual as a result of Clio’s needs — from treatments and doctor visits, to the ever-present possibility of an unplanned hospital visit, to the fact that one of us always needs to be home with her in the mornings, since she can’t go to school.
But, here’s the thing. Do we absolutely need this Medicaid assistance? Could we get by without it?
Well, yeah, we probably could. We have savings and retirement accounts we could dip into if necessary. We have credit cards we could max out. We have parents who could give us a hand financially if we really needed it. I could work at nights and on weekends to keep our income closer to its typical levels. (In addition to the occasional night and weekend hours I already work.) We wouldn’t exactly end up out on the street.
What, I wonder, would Mitt Romney say about all this? Would he say that we’re taking a victim mentality by accepting government aid? (Our child has a life-threatening illness! It’s not fair! Poor us!) That we’re failing to take responsibility for our own lives?
Actually, if he had a chance to put it, ahem, elegantly, I suspect he’d say that instead of making taxpayers bail us out, we should get our friends, neighbors and family members (most of whom are, actually, taxpayers, but no matter…) to chip in and create some sort of fund to help us.
We’d probably be able to raise a few thousand bucks doing this. Nowhere near the amount that Medicaid will save us over the next two years (knock on wood) that Clio in treatment, but a nice little chunk. And it would be more efficient, I suppose, because it would go directly to us, not to us via a bureaucratic system.
As for the belt tightening we’d still have to do? Well, hey. It builds character. (And what everyone needs when they’ve got a kid with cancer are more opportunities to build character!)
Honestly, though, I do feel some guilt over accepting this sort of help when there are people in so much more dire straits than us. Sometimes I wonder if, given our income, we shouldn’t have qualified for this benefit in the first place.
Then other times, I take a step back and think: Is it so crazy for a government to offer a bit of financial relief to a hardworking, tax-paying family that’s already paying through the nose for health insurance, and that now faces thousands of dollars more to pay for their seriously ill child’s care — even if they’re not in serious financial jeopardy at the moment?
Is it foolish and irresponsible for our society to agree (which is, in theory anyway, what we do when we participate in a democratically elected government) that it’s a good idea to help families get through the life-shaking ordeal of a child’s illness or disability with one less source of stress and strain, so they can continue to be productive, contributing, tax-paying members of society along the way?
Maybe so. And maybe, by accepting this form of assistance, I am, in Mitt’s eyes, part of that 47%.
Or maybe not. I don’t know. But I do know this: I’m voting for the same guy the 47% supposedly are.