It’s all the vogue now for red states to punish and humiliate poor people by forcing them to prove that they are working—or have a good reason not to be—in order to get healthcare. But it turns out that the administrative costs of setting up a massive series of hoops for people to jump through are really high.
So states who want to humiliate people are having to figure out how they’re going to pay for it. Tennessee has lit upon a really cruel solution: take the money away from needy families, and particularly children.
Lawmakers’ own estimates put the price tag for enforcing the new work rules at $10,000 per person disenrolled from Medicaid—which advocates note could be more than the new policy saves.
This is where Tennessee’s proposal gets really evil. Unwilling to foot the bill for their new policy out of the state’s general budget, Republican lawmakers have decided to pay for it with funds from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program—which provides meager cash assistance to very poor families with children. […]
Nearly one-quarter of Tennessee children live below the federal poverty line, making it one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to child poverty. But fewer than 1 in 4 poor Tennessee families with children get help from the state’s TANF program, which is one of the stingiest in the country. A Tennessee family of three lucky enough to get temporary assistance can expect to receive a maximum of $185 per month—or a little over $6 a day. […]
Many states use TANF as a slush fund to close budget gaps, with just 1 in every 4 TANF dollars going to cash assistance for struggling families with kids. But Tennessee has made an Olympic sport out of diverting TANF funds away from poor families in need of help, squirreling away more than $400 million in unspent funds in recent years rather than using the money to help struggling families with kids avoid hunger and homelessness.
Because god forbid you spend any money earmarked for helping poor families in helping poor families. The bill is expected to pass the legislature this week and Gov. Bill Haslam, who is of course a Republicans, is expected to sign. That gives Tennessee Republicans these week’s prize for being the worst.