Of course, Medicaid is not a new option for my mother; she knew that she was poor enough to qualify for cost-free health care. It was a deliberate choice on her part to pay that monthly $276 out of her own pocket. Clearly she had judged that she received a personal benefit from not being on Medicaid.
"I just don't expect anything positive out of getting free health care," she said. "I don't see why other people should have to pay for my care, whether it be through taxes or otherwise." In paying for health insurance herself—she won't accept help from her family, either—she was safeguarding her dignity and independence and her sense of being a fully functioning member of society.
Before ObamaCare, Medicaid was one option. Not the option. Before this, she had never been, in effect, ordered to take a handout. Now she has been forced to join the government-reliant poor, though she would prefer to contribute her two mites. The authorities behind "affordable care" had erased her right to calculate what she was willing to spend to preserve her dignity—to determine what she thinks is affordable.
That little contribution can mean the difference between dignity and despair.
For the truly poor, being institutionally forced to take welfare is demoralizing. The Affordable Care Act is at risk of systematizing learned helplessness by telling individuals like my mother that they cannot afford to care for themselves in the way they could before the law was enacted. "This makes me feel poorer than ever," she said.