As The New York Times noted in an editorial, health care for the poorest Americans is under attack by Congressional republicans and President Obama must stand-up to them or the consequences will be grave:
The poor and disabled people who rely on Medicaid to pay their medical bills could be in grave jeopardy in this sour I’ve-got-mine political climate.
Older Americans, a potent voting bloc, have made clear that they won’t stand for serious changes in Medicare. Medicaid, however, provides health insurance for the most vulnerable, who have far less political clout.
There is no doubt that Medicaid — a joint federal-state program — has to be cut substantially in future decades to help curb federal deficits. For cash-strapped states, program cuts may be necessary right now. But in reducing spending, government needs to ensure any changes will not cause undue harm to millions.
As Medicaid currently works, the federal government sets minimum requirements for eligibility and for services that must be covered; states can expand on services and include more people. The federal government is required to pay from half to three-quarters of the cost, depending on the wealth of a state’s population. In tough economic times, Medicaid enrollments typically soar as government revenues shrink, adding budget woes.
House Republicans led by Paul Ryan want to turn Medicaid into a federal block grant program that would grow slowly and shift more costs to states and patients. Their plan would save $771 billion over a decade. Mr. Ryan also wants to repeal a big expansion of Medicaid required by the health care reforms. All told, he would cut $1.4 trillion over 10 years — roughly a third of the more than $4 trillion in projected federal spending in that period.
President Obama, who would retain the Medicaid expansion, has proposed a cut of $100 billion, less than 2.5 percent of projected federal spending, which would be much more manageable, though a lot will depend on how it is carried out. The great danger in proposing $100 billion in cuts at the start is that Republicans will take that as an opening bid that can be negotiated upward, toward the unreasonable Ryan-level cuts the House has already approved.
The best route to savings — already embodied in the reform law — is to make the health care system more efficient over all so that costs are reduced for Medicaid, Medicare and private insurers as well. Various pilot programs to reduce costs might be speeded up, and a greater effort could be made to rein in malpractice costs.
The Half in Ten Campaign - a project supported by the United Church of Christ, the Center for American Progress, and others - is calling on President Obama to protect programs for those living in poverty during budget negotiations:
In these next few weeks, urge the President to stand firm on one important principle as negotiators finalize a deficit reduction plan: protect programs for low-income families and individuals and ensure that deficit reduction does not increase poverty.Major bipartisan deficit reduction plans in recent decades have met this basic standard. In fact, all of the deficit reduction packages enacted in the 1990s not only brought down the deficit, but also reduced poverty in America. Other deficit reduction measures during this time period also excluded programs supporting low-income families from automatic budget cuts on the principle that low-income Americans should be protected.Getting our fiscal house in order need not, and should not, mean we do so in a way that increases poverty, hardship, and inequality while financing additional tax breaks for the wealthy.Call or email the President's office and ask him to oppose harmful cuts to low-income programs and stand by his support of fair increases in revenues to fight reckless cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, and other important services. You can contact the White House Comment Line today toll free at 1-888-245-0215.With critical services for our most vulnerable hanging in the balance, your voice on this issue could not be more needed or important during this time.
Click here to send a message to President Obama.