What’s Work Got to Do with It?

While meant to provide accessible health care, recent events have shown how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will likely serve as another tool for disciplining low-wage workers.

Last week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced that he will be using the ACA to cut the state’s Medicaid program. Although Wisconsin’s current policy provides coverages to people who earn up to 200% of the poverty line, Medicaid under the ACA will only cover those up to 100% of the poverty line, forcing the others to find healthcare in the private market.

The aim, Walker said, is “to get more people out into the workplace, more people covered when it comes to health care and fewer people dependent on the government, not because we’ve kicked them out, but we’ve empowered them to take control of their own destiny.”

Walker’s quote reveals the bait-and-switch of the ACA: the policy that is meant to expand social welfare and save individuals money is in reality reinforcing the idea that the poor should be working harder, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, and taking care of themselves (including when it comes to healthcare).

Walker’s words are part of a long history of romanticizing self-sufficiency and questioning the morality of people on public assistance. While other welfare programs have already faced drastic cuts because of similar arguments (see our earlier post on food stamps), politicians on both sides of the isle are now turning to Medicaid as their next target in the moral crusade on the poor, and they’re using the Affordable Care Act to do it.

The Florence Johnston Collective will be offering a more in-depth analysis of the Affordable Care Act in the coming weeks.


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