Bringing the Dependency Portal into Focus


The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has posted a hub page to explain and trace the development of Rhode Island’s health benefits exchange into a full fledged “dependency portal,” drawing people into government programs.  As much as I strove to explain the concept on that page, two of the five points that one advocacy organization lists under “modernized eligibility procedures” express the disconcerting motivations behind the effort better than I was able:

  • “No wrong door” policies through which, when an application is submitted to one agency, data from the application is forwarded to other agencies to see whether consumers qualify for additional assistance—in effect, using an application for one program as an “on ramp” to other programs …
  • Default enrollment strategies that provide eligible consumers with assistance unless they affirmatively “opt out.”

That document, available on the page linked above, is by Stan Dorn, of the Urban Institute, and Elizabeth Lower-Basch, of the Center for Law and Social Policy, on behalf of the Coalition for Access and Opportunity.  Among the other groups urging states to build entitlement roads, so to speak, with inadvertent on ramps but only deliberate exits, is the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), with which Rhode Island’s Economic Progress Institute (formerly the Poverty Institute) is affiliated.  As it happens, the Economic Progress Institute has a seat on the Advisory Board that Governor Lincoln Chafee appointed to establish and operate the state’s exchange.

In short, this is a very real initiative explicitly in the plans of current officeholders and others who are intimately involved with the nexus of RI government and progressive advocacy.  As a different document from the Coalition for Access and Opportunity puts it, “The eligibility system envisioned under the ACA is different from anything previously available in the public benefits world.”

Intertwined with healthcare, income-tax-based subsidies for even middle-class families, and the entire menu of government handouts, that revolutionary system may bring about a cultural sea change in Americans’ relationship with their governments and further eliminate our sense of self-reliance.  And as officials involved with Rhode Island’s exchange told members of the media on the day the Supreme Court declined to rule ObamaCare unconstitutional, “we’re the only ones” who have charged toward this goal of expanded welfare and subsidy rolls across the human services department.

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