Political Rhetoric / Project Proposal

Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program. This is a public health insurance program which provides needed health care services for low-income individuals including families with children, seniors, persons with disabilities, foster care, pregnant women, and low income people with specific diseases such as tuberculosis, breast cancer or HIV/AIDS.  Medi-Cal is financed equally by the State and federal government.

While working for the Department of Health Care Services Medi-Cal Policy Unit, I have been exposed to political rhetorical strategies used to promote government programs. I have played a role in editing regulations packets and interpreting and enforcing the laws that govern the Medi-cal program.  I am interested in analyzing the rhetorical strategies used to enforce the Estate Recovery Collections Unit, a sub unit of Medi-cal. After receiving notification regarding the death of a person who received Medi-Cal benefits, the Department of Health Services will decide whether or not the cost of services must be paid back. In making this decision, the Department will consider how much was paid by Medi-Cal and what is left in the estate of the deceased Medi-Cal beneficiary. Regardless of what is owed, the Department will never collect more then the value of the assets owned by the person who received Medi-Cal at the time of his/her death.

It sounds morbid to collect an individual’s inheritance because the deceased individual was on Medi-cal, but the State of California demands money entitled to them. I want to consider the question, how powerful is political rhetoric? What rhetorical strategies are used by the government to make people pay debt? What rhetorical strategies are used to enforce collection? I believe the government uses the “scare tactic” to enforce its programs, and because the power of political rhetoric is so strong, it works. I will be using a variety of sources that elaborate on the power of political rhetoric. I will also pull a lot of my research from the Department of Health Care Services (all public information). I will analyze the informational brochures, pamphlets, websites, and collection strategies used by the government to collect back from Medi-cal beneficiaries. I hope my paper provides some startling insight on the power of political rhetoric.

In terms of Medi-cal, the program is a welfare system designed to “help people” who are financially or health challenged. In “The Political Language of the Helping Professions” by Murray Edelman the author states “The language of “reinforcement” and “help” evokes in our minds a world in which the weak and the wayward need to be controlled for their own good” (Edelman 295). Since many Medi-cal beneficiaries are low income, severely sick, or elderly they depend on the Medi-cal program for support and guidance. The collection process becomes a freighting experience for them because the help is no longer available. They are left to figure out a mode of repayment and are “scared straight” by the political rhetoric that implies that if they do not cooperate there will be significant consequences. The government does provide informational pamphlets, websites, and offices that give individuals information about the collection process, but no one “holds the beneficiaries hand” in the collection process.

In essence my paper will deal with the fact that the government first helps individuals through the Medi-cal program with a helpful rhetorical tone, but when it comes to collections, the political rhetoric becomes more enforcing. I am not anti-government I just want to explore how powerful political rhetoric can be.

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