Medicaid Block Grants Could Leave Poorest Americans Once Again without Healthcare
On February 2, 2017, The Hill reported about the potentially devastating effect that block granting Medicaid would have.
In “Medicaid block grants — bigger threat to US healthcare than ACA repeal,” Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO of Lutheran Services in America, writes about that Medicaid block grants pose for states, service providers and the most vulnerable Americans.
Medicaid provides health insurance for seniors, children and individuals with disabilities.
“According to AARP, 65 percent of seniors in nursing homes in the United States are covered by Medicaid. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that Medicaid pays for 39 percent of American children’s health insurance. And MedPAC reports that over 9 million people with disabilities receive services from healthcare to home care through Medicaid.”
Through the expansion of the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, many very-low income households accessed healthcare for the first time in their lives.
“Medicaid reform proposals floated by Speaker Paul Ryan and President-elect Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Rep. Tom Price would convert Medicaid from a defined benefit to a block grant or per capita cap program. That means that individuals who qualify for Medicaid benefits would no longer be guaranteed benefits. Instead states would receive a fixed amount of money from the federal government to spend on Medicaid services.”
Thirty-one states, including New Jersey, have expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA. And states are finding innovative ways to use the Medicaid expansion as an “investment” in the lives of its most vulnerable citizens.
Once the lives of the very vulnerable are stabilized, health care costs go down, adults can get to work and children can thrive in school.
“In practice block grants or per capita caps would mean that states would either have to fill the gaps in federal dollars with state tax revenue or would have to redefine who is eligible for benefits and what benefits are covered.” And where will states find the funding to fill in those gaps?
“Critics of Medicaid often view the program as an expense without a return on investment. The truth is that Medicaid provides benefits to the individuals enrolled in the program — numerous studies demonstrate the link between access to care and improvements in wellbeing — but also to society as a whole.”
“Seniors, children and people with disabilities rely on Medicaid for essential health care services.
Changing the underlying structure of Medicaid from a defined benefit to a block grant, or per capita cap, will undermine the program leaving millions of vulnerable Americans without the access to health care that they desperately need. Congress should reject such so-called reforms.”