Earlier this week, I went to get my baby son’s birth certificate. About four months late.
When little Jefferson Wright was born, the hospital gave me the paperwork, sure. But I misplaced it, then it just lay on the dining room table as I dealt with other life crisis.
It involved paying $17 to get the birth certificate. And it wasn’t something that I could just send away for while paying my bills. I needed a notarized signature on the forum. I vaguely remember that there are some Notary Publics in town, but not exactly where.
So then I decided it would be easier to just go to the county office, than to go someplace to get the notarized signature and then have to mail the form. But the hours of the Yolo County Health Department are pretty much during business hours, and so this waited for several weeks until I found a morning that I wasn’t booked at my job.
I finally took an hour to drive to
Once there, there was no line, the staff was friendly and courteous, and I got the birth certificates there, on the spot.
Why do I go into detail about this? Because this was enough of a hassle and expense for me, as an able-bodied, well-educated professional that schedules his own hours. Yet under the citizenship documentation requirements of the Deficit Reduction Act passed by the previous Congress and signed into law by President Bush, we are asking hundreds of thousands of low-income seniors, parents, and people with disabilities to go through such a process: to get original birth certificates (photocopies not allowed) in order to get Medi-Cal health coverage.
I admit that if my health coverage was riding on this, I probably would have tried to act sooner. But as an adult looking for my own certificate, I wouldn’t have had the form so easily from the hospital; In fact, I may very well have been across the country from the county with my birth records, if I even remembered the location. I might not have been born in a hospital, so such documentation may be hard if not impossible to track down. I might have had a job where it would be harder to take the time to get this done. I might not have had a car to go driving around Woodland.
This is why we think that many thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of Californians, will lose their coverage under this law. (NEW NOTE: California has worked to ease the impact, with electronic data matching for those recently born in the state. But out-of-staters, or those who were born a while ago, will have to find a way to get their original copy manually!)
It’s annoying to face bureaucratic hurdles. But it makes me angry when those burdens are imposed for no real reason, for the express purpose of placing barriers in people’s way. There are some policies in place to intentionally discourage some from getting the services to which they are entitled.
Hopefully Congress will take another look at changing or just discarding these requirements this year.