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Pitting The Poor Against The Poorer

Balking At Heartless Health Care Policy

May 20, 2007

I've just received a notice from Husky, the state's health insurance for poor children and their parents, that I am obliged to provide proof of my citizenship or I shall lose my son's and my insurance. Now, I need this insurance. I couldn't afford to buy health insurance on my own, and Husky is critical to my family's well-being. But I am not sure I am willing to provide proof of my citizenship.

I was born in Massachusetts in 1958, a state notable for its disinclination to support oppression. In most of American society today, however, people mindlessly comply with public policies dreamed up by the cynical, the self-serving and the heartless.

This notice from the state is a good example, and it is shameful. There are only two reasons the state would demand proof of citizenship from poor people, and both are equally reprehensible.

The first is to flush out illegal "aliens" by using the state insurance program. I find this the antithesis of the ideals of the U.S. Constitution, defender of life and liberty. Persecuting poor families by seizing them through a health program they desperately need to survive is simply evil.

The other reason is marginally less malign in intent, but certainly cruel. To thin out the ranks of costly Husky clients, the state is determining that some children deserve to be well and others deserve to be ill. The state is saying that some mothers deserve to live, others to die. The state is saying that some fathers deserve to be healthy, others to suffer, based on birthplace.

You tell a mother with a sick child that she can't bring her baby to a doctor. You tell a father with a back injury who can't work to support his family that he can't receive treatment.

Go ahead, tell him yourself. You tell a child whose mother needs medicine for a heart condition that she can't have it. Tell that mother's child, go ahead. Can't do it? Of course you can't. You'd be a monster if you could.

So you want me to do it. That's right, me. That, in effect, is what the state is doing. It is making all Husky clients complicit in a campaign that would persecute impoverished families for the crime of being poor, vulnerable and needing to live in the United States to survive.

If I provide proof of my citizenship, then I am enabling a monstrously cruel mechanism to target its victims precisely.

I don't know what I will do. My son and I need health insurance. I can't afford it. I know that complying with this demand is wrong, and I know that not complying will have dire consequences. What should I do?

I know what I'm doing today. I am writing to my representative and my senator. And, for the love of those families depending on you for their very survival, I hope you will do the same.

Jampa Napthali Williams lives in West Hartford.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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