Indiana Now Screws Over Teachers & Artists, In Addition to Poor Folks

Living in Indiana has been, let’s say challenging, for many reasons as a West Coast liberal. But now the state’s utter disregard for teachers, artists, and the poor (working or not) is more apparent.

Photo by paul morris, from Unsplash. In public domain.

Indiana has recently added a work requirement to its Medicaid bill, as well as a piece that will block enrollment for 3 months if paperwork is late, according to NPR. Removing one’s coverage for logistics reasons is – I can attest as someone living at the poverty line – a pretty terrible idea if you actually want your citizens to have widespread coverage. The scramble of daily hustle is not always conducive to getting access to a fax machine during business hours, ya know? But in this post I want to focus on the work requirement.

The work requirement – that healthy adults work 20 hours a week to be eligible for Medicaid – takes effect in 2019. All I can think is, wow, Indiana, did you go out of your way to dick over not only poor people but also teachers, artists, and small business owners who are still getting things started?

I’m still learning about the bill, but what about teachers like me who don’t get offered summer classes to teach? Or teachers who chose to turn down summer employment options because they’re burned the fuck out? Apparently it offers student exemptions, so my grad student friends are safe (for now), but what about part-time students, will they be counted too?

What about people who are non-traditionally employed, whether in the first stages of starting a business, or launching careers as artists? There aren’t many of us who are full-time dancers or fitness instructors, but what about those of us who do it part-time, and might want to start transitioning to full-time?

What about people who can’t find work in their neighborhood, and can’t get to places with work because Indianapolis’s public transit is laughably bad?

What about people who have to “check the box” indicating they have a criminal record, even if for something trivial that never led to a court date or conviction, who keep getting turned down for employment? (I’ve just read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow which is an incredibly compelling book, one I highly recommend, about this very issue and how it disproportionately impacts African American people and is a huge part of the unsuccessful and quite racist drug war)

What about people in domestic partnerships who can’t be on their working partner’s health care, and effectively work part- or full-time maintaining the household? Apparently there’ll be an exemption for child- or elder-care, but what about for people who are just unmarried homemakers without kids? I did something similar for a while (though married, so I did get coverage), and while being a housewife with a PhD ultimately wasn’t my thing, maybe others find themselves in similar positions.

And oh wait, what about teachers like me who are prohibited from actually working 20 hours a week? Some of my adjunct contracts cap my hours at teaching 6-8 credit hours a semester, which by their math can come to as few as 18 a week (which is a totally faulty estimate on their part, because lol do you know how much work actually goes into lesson planning and grading and so on). So by that math, even though I’m working as much as I’m allowed to at a given institution, I would still not qualify to stay on Medicaid.

Speaking of teachers, according to Vox’s reporting, when you adjust for inflation, Indiana teachers have taken a 15.1% pay cut over the past 15 years. That is actually worse than the teachers on strike in West Virginia are doing. But, you know, keep telling me that education is a vital institution and we need folks doing this job.

I’ll be okay, since I also work as a freelancer and dance instructor for at least 2 hours a week, but what about over the summer? Will my alternate forms of employment be accepted as legitimate by the state? Or do I need to go get some 20-hour-a-week job that I know is only for the summer months, and that I’m likely not trained in, and that is probably taking away money and a job from someone who needs it more than I do? News flash: finding alternate work with a PhD can be rough since most people look at us like “uh why do you want to work here and not a university” and then we have to spend like 3 hours catching them up on the contingent/adjunct situation in academia.

With many industries trending toward automation, or shipping jobs overseas, there’s also a larger conversation to be had about the meaning of work, and whether it’s in our best interests to continue promoting the idea that everyone must constantly be producing a concrete labor product. Or, at the very least, should we be punishing people who don’t conform to that ideal, in a time when it’s increasingly difficult to do so? (and given my focus on intersectional analysis, which leads us to ask which people are impacted by overlapping types of oppression and marginalization, making it hard for them to find work, or maybe not worth it, like where gender pay gap disparities butt up against the lack of federally mandated maternal/paternal leave)

There are so many populations this new law effectively screws over that I’m wondering whether the people implementing it were very stupid, very ignorant, very callous, very clever about their plans to let certain populations get sick and die, or maybe some combination of the above. Our politicians don’t seem a fan of evidence-based approaches, or harm-reduction policies, as seen in Mike Pence’s leadership as governor that led to an ongoing HIV crisis.

Bottom line: if you are making it harder for the most impoverished and vulnerable people to get health care, you’re condemning them to sickness and death. According to the CDC, Indiana has some of the highest rates of adults smokers in the country, and our own damn state acknowledges (in this PDF report) that almost 10% of Hoosiers have diabetes, and our rates are higher than the national rates. I have a diabetic friend who recently died due to lack of adequate health care, so this is hitting home on numerous levels.

Oh yeah, and let’s not forget that the opioid epidemic is hitting this state particularly hard, so much so that coroners are having trouble keeping up with the body count.

I hope this post generates some outrage, so please share it widely. And then call your reps, and get out to vote, and all that good stuff. Because it’s utterly ridiculous to promote the idea that our government is working for us, when it is so clearly working against us.

Edited to add: apparently there will be a 4-month exemption period for the regulation, according to this PDF detailing the plan. That would help with the summer months for teachers, but if they’re contingent like I am – and approximately 70% of college classes across the U.S. are taught by people like me – a semester’s contract could be withheld or terminated at any given time, thereby relegating us to a noncompliant status quite easily.

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