One thing that’s striking about a lot of proposals for helping the uninsured, poor people, sick people, and other worthy people is that the proposers often assume the “helpees” are well-organized computer whizzes with skilled tax accountants on retainer.
The proposers assume the helpees will have computers, or at least working telephone lines, or at least enough time, energy and bus fare to connect with an in-person helper.
The proposers assume the helpees will remember many different government Web account passwords; remember answers to the recovery questions for people who forget their passwords; know their Social Security numbers; have pay stubs; have identification documents they can use to prove their identities and immigration status; and be prompt at meeting application and appeals deadlines.
On the one hand: Of course, people who are getting government program help, or some kind of voluntary private-sector help, ought to be grateful, and they ought to do what they can to pull their own weight.
On the other hand: One of the reasons that people end up needing extra help in the first place is that they’re tired and confused.
They may not remember passwords, or know what a computer password is. They may not remember their Social Security numbers. They might be living on the floors of subway stations partly because they lost all of their IDs, and they may lack the ability to get new ID partly because they are missing the $50 or more needed to get to the offices that replace missing IDs.
And, of course, they may be terrible about paperwork and deadlines even if they’re in a moderate income category, or even if they’re in a high income category.
No doubt, there are successful readers of this blog who are wonderful about meeting their clients’ application deadlines but have not looked at many of their own bills since the start of the 2016 open enrollment period.