September 2004 (v7 i1)
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Medicaid: irresponsibility a disease
New coverage to include gambling losses, wheelbarrow accidents
by Chanice Jan, Staff Writer

"Dang. Where'd I put my keys?"
TALLAHASSEE, FL — In the wake of Medicare's July decision to cover obesity treatments such as diet plans and stomach stapling, Medicaid announced that it has expanded coverage to include conditions related to chronic irresponsibility.

While the announcement comes as a surprise to many Americans, it has generated little controversy among health care professionals.

"Medicare provides health care coverage for the elderly, many of whom are clinically obese," said Dr. Andrew Jenkins of the National Institute of Health. "Medicaid, conversely, covers the economically disadvantaged. And, as we all know, poor people are pretty irresponsible."

Irresponsibility affects as many as two-thirds of Americans. Like obesity, it can lead to complications.

"Irresponsible people, for example, are twice as likely to experience bad hygiene, provoked animal attacks, and babysitting fires," explained Dr. Jenkins.

Medicaid's extended coverage has helped thousands of patients return to their normal lives of recklessness and indiscretion.

"After I lost my job again, [my wife] Sheryl told me I couldn't stay outside to watch tornadoes no more," said Pete Carlson, a former manufacturing worker from Tulsa. "The bills for getting CAT scans when flying branches and mailboxes and stuff hit me in the head just got to be too much without the insurance."

"I can't write so good no more on account of my arm getting all mangled in that woodchipper I was playing with, so I yelled at Sheryl to fill me out some forms and take them to the government. Now I can get back to my favorite hobby: shooting street signs with my lucky rifle."

Under the new guidelines, Medicaid covers injuries sustained while bar fighting, attending monster truck rallies, and attempting literacy, as well as motorcycle stunt mishaps and head lice.

While those receiving extra coverage under the changes are delighted, critics charge that irresponsibility should not be classified as a medical condition, as it results from personal choice.

"This is going to lead to absolute chaos," warns Dr. Edward Ryniker, a social psychologist at Carnegie Mellon. "Now that irresponsibility is insured, people will be engaging in all sorts of reckless and dangerous behavior to the detriment of society. They'll drive drunk, wear socks with sandals, and watch FOX news."

There are many different theories explaining the causes of irresponsibility. Some point to a culture of convenience in which microwave dinners and HBO have fostered a pervasive sense of complacency. Others cite popular TV programs like "Viva La Bam" and "SpongeBob Squarepants" for glorifying negligent lifestyles. Others still simply blame heredity.

Patty Brancaccio, 52, who has been on Medicaid since 1978, says her son Jed has been irresponsible "as long as she can remember."

"When I used to leave him in his high chair so I could watch 'The Young and the Restless,' I'd always come back to a kitchen covered in baby food," said Brancaccio. "Potty training was a nightmare, too. No matter how many times I locked that boy in the bathroom, it'd end up anywhere but the toilet. I used to wonder what I was doing wrong, but now I know it's not my fault he's got warrants in nine states."

Medicare and Medicaid's expanded coverage has begun a domino effect within the healthcare industry. Some HMOs have begun offering coverage for pretentiousness, apathy and sheltered ignorance.

While it's true that irresponsibility can even affect the well-off, it remains the biggest problem for those who can least afford it, as Brancaccio can testify.

"My boyfriend's in the big house again for grand theft auto, and I don't have the money for bail this time because I can't find my son to ask him for money. I wonder where that boy's at."
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