This AHCA Amendment Attacks Low-Income Moms

When discussing the new American Health Care Act, and all the various bills and amendments cobbled together in order to garner enough Republican votes for it to pass, the focus is often limited to the pre-existing condition and essential health care benefits waivers. But there's another doozy hiding in there: the Manager's Amendment, a direct attack on low-income mothers that would force them to work when they're still recovering from labor. According to a summary published by the House, it gives states "the option of instituting a work requirement in Medicaid for nondisabled, nonelderly, non-pregnant adults" in order to keep receiving coverage, which would go into effect this October.

According to Fortune, that means that once a Medicaid recipient has been "nonpregnant" for a whopping 60 days, they'd be required to get a job or lose their coverage. That's only two and a half weeks after the postpartum exam, and most babies still aren't sleeping through the night at that age. The first two months of a baby's life usually leave parents so sleep-deprived they can barely find the energy to shower, let alone spruce up their resume and fill out job applications. Fortune also noted that almost 28 percent of Medicaid recipients say they can't find work because they have to take care of their family.

This callous provision plays on the myth of the so-called "welfare queen," a woman — usually black — who the GOP thinks uses pregnancy and motherhood as a way to sponge off of the government. In reality, there was one welfare queen: Linda Taylor, whose story became sensationalized and exploited by Ronald Reagan during his 1976 presidential campaign. Taylor's fraud was used to undermine the credibility of welfare recipients, particularly women of color, and draw a distinct line between who the public perceives as deserving government assistance. Take, for example, the millions of dollars wasted on drug-testing welfare recipients without cause that effectively proved that poor people are actually less likely to use drugs (I hear they're expensive).

The myth of women somewhere in America making their living by defrauding the government is just that: a myth. I can think of at least 100 easier ways to get by. Raising a baby (or a toddler, or a tween) isn't getting out of work; it's hard work. It's the hardest work I've ever done, and I've worked retail on Black Friday. If a low-income mother doesn't have a job, it's more likely that she can't afford to work; child care costs nearly $200 per week on average, which would eat up anywhere from half to two-thirds of a minimum wage salary. Factor in clothing, transportation, and other incidentals, and it's often cheaper to stay home. And finally, all people, regardless of their income, have a right to health care. We give it to death row inmates; how is an innocent, underprivileged woman with a new baby less deserving?