House Bill 655, the “NC Health Care for Working Families” is intended to close the coverage gap and provide health insurance to North Carolinians who previously did not have access. Unfortunately, this bill contains troubling provisions that will harm the very people legislators claim to help. Specifically, the work reporting requirements are an ill-informed and bad faith effort to increase employment. Not only do these provisions fly in the face of the vast amount of evidence which proves they do not work, they are based off of nasty stereotypes and are not reflective of the lives of people struggling to make ends meet. In fact, these requirements restrict access to public supports for the people who need help the most and who rely on those supports to work and lead full lives.
The work reporting requirements in House Bill 655 are identical to those in the nation’s food nutrition program (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP). Talk Poverty, an editorial project of the Center for American Progress, documents a first person account of just how inflexible and punitive these policies actually are:
My fibromyalgia doesn’t care about my work schedule. It doesn’t time its flare-ups according to my current proximity to heating pads. Even more than Beamer, my service dog, fibromyalgia is the most constant presence in my life, on my mind at all hours of the day. In the morning, my joints could be so sore that I forgo my cup of coffee, because I can’t trust my grip and I don’t want to clean up another shattered mug. By the afternoon, those aches may give way to a fog that clouds my mind until any attempt at sustained concentration feels like running up a downward escalator — a lot of effort, but little payoff.
People with disabilities are supposed to be spared from the cuts. But in practice, many people with serious health conditions will be at risk of losing food assistance, because SNAP uses other government programs with an extremely limited definition of disability as proxies for disability status. So, I’m on the chopping block.
If I need to miss a shift because I woke up feeling particularly sore or because the afternoon fog rolled in early, the benefits I rely on to eat are threatened. Good day or bad, doctor’s appointment or not, I have to make sure I’m on time and ready, smiling at the customer service desk of the museum that is my work place.