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Why Medicaid Matters

Today, the United States Senate released its draft legislation designed to “repeal and replace” Obamacare (also known as The Affordable Care Act).  What is most evident in this legislation is the massive destruction of the Medicaid program.  Medicaid is the single largest healthcare program in the United States.  Medicaid serves one in five Americans.  Medicaid covers not only poor individuals, but two-thirds of all nursing home residents.  Many nursing home bills run between $5000 and $7000 a month for skilled nursing care.  The majority of our elderly community cannot self-pay for that level care should it be necessary.  Medicare does not cover long-term skilled nursing care.  So when we talk about cutting Medicaid, we are talking about the future care of ourselves and those we love.

The Senate bill will phase out the Medicaid expansion that is part of Obamacare.   Obamacare provides for 100% federal funding over a three year period and 90% funding after that for those states that expanded their Medicaid programs.  Medicaid is a federal program that is administered by states.  Georgia did not elect to expand Medicaid.   Those states that did expand Medicaid saw a significant decrease in their uninsured populations.  And importantly, sick and indigent individuals had access to medical care.

Today’s proposed legislation proposes “block grants” and per capita spending limits – a draconian solution that has never been part of the Medicaid program.  Currently, Medicaid provides healthcare coverage to individuals qualifying from an income and asset standpoint.  This current legislation caps the amount of money provided to states regardless of the number of eligible recipients.  Hence, coverage will be drastically reduced for those states with significant poor populations.  Georgia ranks 42nd in overall poverty.  https://talkpoverty.org/state-year-report/georgia-2016-report/ is third in the nation for medically uninsured individuals.  http://www.georgiahealthnews.com/2016/09/georgia-ranks-high-rate-uninsured/

And why is the Senate proposing vast cuts to the Medicaid program?  Is it because it is a runaway train when it comes to medical expenses?  No.  Medicaid reduces the costs to hospitals for caring for critically ill and uninsured patients.  A cost that ultimately gets passed on to the insured population.  It improves the overall health of the population and thereby reduces high level of care needs.  These groups are currently opposed to the new Senate bill:  The American Hospital Association; the Federation of American Hospitals; the American Academy of Pediatricians and the American Association of Medical Colleges.

These Medicaid cuts are proposed in order to accommodate broad tax cuts in Obamacare taxes.  These tax cuts benefit middle class and upper income individuals and families.  In essence, vulnerable populations – children, the poor, and the elderly – are paying for tax cuts for the healthy and affluent.

If you disagree with this proposed legislation, I urge you to contact your United States Senators:  Sen. Johnny Isakson at 770-661-0999 or 202-224-3643 and Sen. David Perdue at 404-865-0087 or 202-224-3521.