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Sympathy for Justin Harris 

Sympathy for Justin Harris

Must have been a slow news week: Leave Harris alone or start your own daycare. Anyone could have made the same mistake.

As far as us paying a few dollars more per day for a child that may come in late or is on the grounds — I could care less.

Been there with severely challenged kids.

Steve Wheeler

North Little Rock

Medicaid reform

An open letter to members of Governor Hutchinson's Health Reform Legislative Task Force:

Not all beneficiaries of the private option are deadbeats. As a longtime advocate for the elderly and people with disabilities, I spend a lot of time listening to Arkansas legislators discuss the future of Medicaid and the fate of Arkansas's uninsured population. At the beginning of the 2015 legislative session, bills were introduced to terminate the private option. My state representative suggested that current beneficiaries of that program should get a J-O-B to pay for their own health insurance. For those task force members who share his opinion that Arkansans working minimum-wage jobs can afford the average $275 per month insurance premium but prefer to game the system instead, I refer you to an editorial appearing on Ithaca.com (May 30, 2015), an online New York State newspaper.

The editorial quotes Mike Sigler, a New York State representative, saying, "I work hard for my health insurance. ... Medicaid people are getting charged all the time with fraud." The editorial poses the question "Who are 'Medicaid people'?" I think it's important for task force members to ask the same question, and take the time to research the answer.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 73 percent of nonelderly Arkansans with Medicaid are children. Despite the fact that 17 percent of families receiving Medicaid have at least one full-time worker and 41 percent have one or more part-time workers, 48 percent of nonelderly Medicaid recipients are living under 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($11,770 for an individual; $24,250 for a family of four). The minimum wage in Arkansas is $7.50 per hour, yielding a weekly salary of $300 less 6.2 percent (about $19) for Social Security taxes.

The vast majority of health care fraudsters are doctors, pharmacists, drug dealers and professional scam artists, not homeless people, single moms, the disabled or grandparents raising children of incarcerated parents. The editorial points out that, "It's not easy to qualify for Medicaid. ... Nor does Medicaid automatically renew." The annual review paperwork can be daunting for homeless, mentally ill, or low-literate people. "And the attitude ... that they must be trying to rip off the system, or that they deserve their disabilities and their poverty because of their lack of work ethic or moral fiber ... makes applying for that card an exercise in humiliation."

The editorial goes on to cite the recent Medicaid fraud case in New York City involving homeless people who were recruited at soup kitchens and shelters to unwittingly allow a ring of doctors to run up almost $7 million in phony Medicaid charges in exchange for a pair of cheap sneakers. That story was covered by news media nationwide. However, most articles left out the part that the investigation leading to the arrest of 23 people, included nine physicians, was prompted by a homeless lady who walked into the Brooklyn district attorney's office to report that she had been recruited and brought to a clinic where a podiatrist gave her sneakers and a knee brace, which she insisted she didn't need. However, accepting the knee brace was a condition of receiving the free sneakers. The editorial concludes: "In other words, an honest 'Medicaid person' just saved the state of New York over $7 million. Maybe she should run for office." While I'm not advocating that this lady run for office, I would hope that she could be provided with appropriate services and supports to get a roof over her head while she gets back on her feet. She is an example of the majority of Medicaid-eligible American citizens, who do not choose to be deadbeats.

Gloria Gordon

North Little Rock

Capitalism run amok

The problem with our economy is that capitalism in America has arrived at an ugly place. I don't think Adam Smith envisioned a corporate welfare state when he wrote about the "free market." A level playing field where a person's skills and determination can secure a slice of the American Dream is what Smith and other founders dreamed of in the early days of our nation's founding.

What we've become is a nation controlled by corporations who manipulate the legislative process to take advantage of bailouts, subsidies and tax breaks for the wealthy that are paid for by us peons. For an example, look at the current deal with Lockheed Martin. This deal will result in only a few jobs, but will increase the tax burden for poor Arkansans.

This set of circumstances isn't going to change if we continue to put the same old parties in office. We need something different in this country. Maybe a Democratic Socialist from Vermont?

Richard Hutson

Rose Bud

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