Unlike Medicare, which covers Americans age 65 and over, Medicaid was established to serve the poorest Americans, particularly low-income mothers and children. It does this, but few people realize that the program also serves many seniors. Currently seven out of ten nursing home residents are on Medicaid. Some of these persons have long been indigent. But many others lived middle-class lives for decades until they outlived their pensions, savings and home equity and signed over to the federal government their remaining assets so that Medicaid would pay for their nursing home care in certified facilities. This care is expensive, more than $200 a day by a 2009 estimate. One year of care costs more than most Americans earn in a year of full-time employment.
The restructuring of Medicaid espoused by Representative Paul D. Ryan (Republican of Wisconsin), chairman of the House Budget Committee, would turn Medicaid into a block grant program administered by the states. Payments would increase only at the rate of inflation, not at the much faster rate of increasing health care costs. As a result, many experts think the states would soon have to downsize both the program and its benefits. Any cutback of services would harm not only mothers and children but also the disabled and the elderly, who currently benefit from nearly two-thirds of all Medicaid spending. Even though Mr. Ryan’s proposal for Medicaid would reduce federal outlays, it would merely hand over the responsibility for providing essential services to the states—and to the very Americans who cannot afford the bill. It would be better to find other ways to stretch the federal Medicaid dollar than by cutting senior services like nursing home care.A Graduation Debate
A university commencement, with its honorary degrees and speakers, is the last chance to teach the graduates what the past four years were all about. Often schools pass up that chance by inviting a celebrity to give the graduates the feeling they had met someone famous.
Two years ago conservative Catholics and bishops protested when Notre Dame gave President Barack Obama an honorary degree, because Mr. Obama, a Protestant, did not accept Catholic Church teaching on abortion. Last month 78 professors from various Catholic universities wrote to Representative John A. Boehner, a Catholic graduate of Xavier University in Cincinnati, who was scheduled to give the commencement address at The Catholic University of America. Their purpose was not to disinvite him but to point out to him that this Republican-supported budget, which cuts Medicare and grants tax cuts to the rich, was “at variance from one of the Church’s ancient moral teachings...that those in power are morally obliged to preference the needs of the poor.”
Another letter from 83 students to the university’s president, John Garvey, said Mr. Boehner was an inappropriate choice because he had championed cuts in food for the poor and homeless. Did the administration “really believe” this was “an example of Catholic leadership”?
In his talk Mr. Boehner dwelt on how his parents taught him to “do the right thing for the right reason” and, dabbing at his tears, recounted that his high school football coach had called when he became House speaker to say, “You can do it.” He endorsed “humility, patience and faith.” President Garvey told the press, “He represents the church well.”Cruel Beauty
Every year cosmetics companies in the United States kill millions of animals while testing their products. According to statistics from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, almost a million feel excruciating pain during these experiments.
Among the wretched examples of inhumane practices is the injection of caustic substances into the eyes of living rabbits (to test for levels of skin irritation) while they squirm and scream until they break their necks or backs.
The Food and Drug Administration does not require testing on animals. The European Union banned animal testing in 2009. There are alternatives. Santosh Krinsky, chief executive officer of Beauty Without Cruelty, points to less expensive and more reliable tests, based on computer models that use, for example, “cell and skin tissue cultures and corneas from eye banks.”
American consumers must step up the pressure and boycott companies that test on animals. As Christians we have a responsibility to be stewards of creation. An online listing of companies that test on animals extends beyond cosmetics to personal care, household and other items as well. It is shockingly long, and the brand names are surprisingly familiar—including Max Factor, Bain de Soleil, Clairol, L’Oréal, Pine-Sol, Scope, Old Spice and Woolite. Among the hundreds of companies to be applauded (and supported) for not testing on animals are Avon, The Body Shop and Mary Kay Cosmetics.
The cost of human beauty should not include product testing that inflicts unspeakable cruelty on animals.