The high cost of family collapse
Poor, unmarried women and girls who have babies are doing themselves and society inestimable damage.
It's pretty much undisputed that skyrocketing costs in Medicaid and public pensions are wreaking havoc with the Illinois budget.
Despite a mammoth income tax increase in January 2009 and the gusher of new revenue it produced, Illinois legislators will not have sufficient funds available to fund core state functions without dramatic cuts in Medicaid and pension spending.
That's why Gov. Pat Quinn has appointed two working groups made up of administration representatives and legislators to come up with a package of recommendations for cost savings in both programs.
There will be few, in any, easy choices when it comes to cost savings. Indeed, a recent Associated Press story illustrates the dilemma that legislators face with respect to Medicaid, the social welfare program that finances health care for the poor.
It's a dual problem that reflects both immediate exorbitant costs to taxpayers and social disintegration that lays the groundwork for bigger and more costly problems in the future.
In 2009, the last year for which complete figures are available, Medicaid paid for the costs of 89,621 babies in Illinois. That number reflected 54 percent of all births in Illinois, and the bill came to $890 million.
That's a stunning statistic. But here's an even bigger shocker. With respect to teen mothers, Medicaid paid for nearly 94 percent of deliveries in 2009.
Illinois is not disintegrating in a vacuum. On a national scale, Medicaid paid for four in 10 births.
The national cost, of course, is staggering. In 2009, Medicaid paid $27 billion for pregnancy and delivery services and another $24 billion for care for newborns.
Maternity related hospital stays make up more than a quarter of Medicaid's hospital charges.
Gov. Quinn has established a goal of cutting $2.7 billion from Illinois' Medicaid program. Without these deep cuts, Quinn has suggested the program is in danger of collapse, and that doesn't even count the collateral damage done when money allocated to Medicaid could have gone to K-12 and higher education, law enforcement, mental health or roads.
What can the state do about reducing its cost for Medicaid births? Thanks to President Barack Obama's national health care plan, the answer is nothing.
Obamacare rules forbid any reductions in eligibility requirements that might cut the Medicaid rolls. Indeed, over the new few years, many thousands more Illinois residents are expected to be added to the Medicaid rolls under Obamacare.
What's ironic is that Illinois' Medicaid rules are far more generous than they need to be. The federal government requires that those earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for Medicaid. In Illinois, low-income earners who make anywhere from 200 percent to 300 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for Medicaid.
What Medicaid pays each year for childbirth is, of course, just the up-front cost of the dangerous social pathology linked to single mothers who give birth, particularly teen single mothers.
Welfare statistics demonstrate clearly that unwed teenage girls who give birth have pretty much guaranteed themselves a lifetime of living in poverty. Even more disturbing are statistics that reveal that the children born to single mothers disproportionately fall victim to a series of negative social pathologies including a poor education and involvement in crime.
In other words, things continue to get worse for individuals who either trap themselves or their children in these circumstances.
It's a seemingly intractable problem that reflects a slow and steady cultural decline. The budget implications are catastrophic, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.