My Turn: On Medicaid, Kurk has it backward
Re: “A financial and moral imperative” (Sunday Monitor editorial, Aug. 18):
State Rep. Neal Kurk’s comments on NHPR’s The Exchange indicate that he assumes – incorrectly – that poor people have no desire to take responsibility for themselves. However, most people who are impoverished and dependent on Medicaid don’t want to be there but are forced there by circumstances beyond their control. It’s usually not a choice but a lack of chance that causes them to spiral downward. They don’t feel entitled, they feel desperate. Have Kurk and his cronies taken the time to listen to the stories of those he condemns to learn what happened to land them in their now-impoverished lives? Here’s mine:
Years ago, as a young woman from a good, middle-class family, I suddenly found myself abandoned by the man who had reluctantly married me because he had made me pregnant when I was 17. I had a 4-year-old and a newborn baby. I struggled to complete high school but had no job training or skills. With no income, I had to apply for what was then AFDC and Medicaid so we could eat and have basic health care. I enrolled in nursing school at NHTI and became an RN, which helped me get off welfare and into the middle class. I later graduated from the University of New Hampshire and Boston University Law School and became an attorney, able to remain self-sufficient and to give back to society.
My story has a happy ending, the kind most people on Medicaid hope for. But many others are still struggling. So we must continue to help them along a path to success as others – and the state of New Hampshire – did for me more than 40 years ago. This is the true way to eliminate poverty: support people as they lift themselves up rather than holding them down and making their lives ever more difficult and complicated.
While I admire Kurk’s years of service in the New Hampshire Legislature, he fails to acknowledge or contemplate the tragic personal stories of how people land in poverty. Dismissing poor people by claiming it’s all their fault demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding of the causes of poverty. Can Kurk find compassion in his heart to begin to comprehend and solve the real problems of poor people, or is he only interested in repeating the same narrow-minded rhetoric of bitterness and blame?
(Jane E. Fairchild lives in Hopkinton and is the author of a soon-to-be-published memoir, “Not What I Expected: A 50 year Look Back on the Life of a Pregnant Teen.”)