Archived Story

‘Reform’ should help people

Published 10:13am Thursday, May 30, 2013

After stopping a much needed expansion of the Medicaid Program, a group of Ohio Legislators have recently introduced a new concept of “Medicaid reform.”

It involves time limits, work requirements and other elements intended to inspire more “personal responsibility” and prevent the dreaded “dependency.” This sounds amazingly like the much praised and highly popular bipartisan “welfare reform” of the mid 1990s.

This appeals to a broad segment of the population who want to believe that all poverty and apparently ill health is caused by a failure of character. This philosophy is given considerable support by some conservative think tanks.

The problem is that they are wrong.

As someone who has been running the welfare office in one of the poorest counties in Appalachia for more than 30 years, I can assure you it is not that simple.

There is no doubt that there are many character flaws that poor people struggle with. Don’t we all? But it is undeniably true that ill health, low wage jobs, mental health and substance abuse underlie our challenges with poverty.

As well as, racial discrimination, ex-offender discrimination, gender discrimination and a host of other issues that rest with character flaws in the rest of us help make poverty intractable.

“Welfare reform” failed because it did not address the wide array of poverty-related issues. None of the stated program goals were met.

It failed to reduce out of wedlock births, failed to encourage the formation of two-parent households and failed to reduce “dependency.” We have had an explosion of out of wedlock births society wide.

More and more families are breaking apart as is evident by a growing number of grandparents now caring for their grandchildren. While cash assistance rolls have dropped drastically, food stamp assistance has grown to record numbers reflecting a growing number of poor families.

Amid the most serious failure of welfare reform was that of failing to meet the basic needs of families with children.

In Ohio today there are more children living in households with no cash income than those who are getting cash welfare. Overall in Ohio, almost 500,000 people, including about 170,000, children have no cash income in their households. Only 110,000 children receive cash assistance through the Ohio Works First program.

These children are living in families doubled or tripled up in often substandard housing, many are homeless. They have no money for transportation, diapers, soap, shoes, toothpaste or many other necessities.

Families left on the reformed welfare system receive an average of $180 per person per month and the parents have a typical work requirement of 30 hours per week. If they are able to overcome the transportation and other barriers to accomplish this overwhelming task, they can watch their kids go hungry at the end of the month and still struggle to keep a roof over their heads. We insist they work, we do not guarantee that their basic needs will be met.

This is the success we hope to match with “Medicaid reform.”

In the “every man for himself” conservative world, welfare reform succeeded because it slashed welfare cash assistance rolls. The actual people hurt were simply disposable.

Ohio has cut 100,000 people off cash assistance in the past two years using the reformed welfare rules. They did not move to happy valley or disappear. They are struggling to survive.

Is that the kind of “reform” we want for Medicaid?


Jack Frech is the director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services, located at 184 N. Lancaster St., in Athens. He can be reached at (740) 677-4260.





  • mikehaney

    Most Americans didn’t need a poll to tell them that religion is having a lesser impact on society. Like anyone else, they can turn on the television or open the newspaper and attack after attack on faith. Years after purging God from schools, the country is finally feeling its effects.

    When Gallup asked Americans if religion was losing its influence in America, 77% of people agreed. Only in the year after September 11, when the nation looked to faith for comfort, did a majority think religion was having a greater impact on the country. As Christians, we feel the gap widening with every lawsuit against cheerleaders’ Bible signs or every school board rejection of the 10 Commandments. Even the military, once the most openly spiritual institution in America, is marginalizing Christianity.

    So much so, it turns out, that Kansas legislators felt compelled to pass a resolution affirming the military’s “200+ years of Judeo-Christian tradition.” Led by Sen. Mitch Holmes (R), a veteran himself, the state senate denounced the “documented trend of increasing hostility from special interests toward religious expression by service members…” Holmes circulated a list of 20 incidents of religious intolerance in the military just since 2010 and encouraged leaders to denounce them. They did — overwhelmingly. Louisiana is hoping to follow their lead, as 25 state leaders cosponsored a similar military freedom resolution.

    Meanwhile, many of the same people who told Gallup that religion is having less of an impact say they wish it had more. Seventy-five percent of respondents recognize religion’s benefits to society and think it would be good if Americans were more religious. Why? Because nothing offers individuals more purpose and meaning in life — and nothing else will create a more stable and prosperous society than one that values every human being. Not only do those who have a personal faith benefit — but all of society benefits from those who see the inherent value in their fellow man and therefore have a moral motivation to help the poor and vulnerable. This Christian foundation is what has set America apart as such a great and compassionate nation — and without religion, it’s only a matter of time until we can no longer maintain it.

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  • mikehaney

    Sounds like Jack wants to keep his job, funded by the taxpayer. He also had help writing this piece from Obama. Probably a form letter sent out from the White House. More people on welfare, more votes for Obama.
    People with food stamps can still buy their booze and drugs by short buying food and get change back. Do this several times and you can buy a six pack.
    Jack and Obama want to just give them a debit card to bypass the food meant for their children.
    And to top it all off, they drive better cars than me.

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  • mickakers

    Jack Frech; One of the most articulate articles on poverty I have read. My compliments and thank you for your attempt to get the truth on the table. Now, if people will only listen and comprehend.

    (Report comment)

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