Advocates react to proposed cuts in Medicaid

A proposed cut of up to $800 billion in Medicaid has many advocates of the low income, disabled and elderly concerned.

“The cuts are very worrying,” says Laura Colbert with Georgians for a Healthy Future. “Aside from the possibility of Georgia having to cut services or raise taxes to pay for these services, there could be a difference in the quality of services that people end up receiving.”

What is Medicaid? First, it’s NOT Medicare which is totally federally funded and a program solely for older Americans.

Medicaid is a program (funded jointly by states and the federal government) that serves those of all ages, the very young, the disabled and the elderly. “People don’t realize how many Georgians are covered by Medicaid,” said Colbert. ” We have 2 million Georgians, almost 20 percent of the population covered by Medicaid and most of those are kids.”

While many children (often with at least one working parent) rely on Medicaid as health insurance, per person – the program costs are normally higher for the disabled and elderly. “People with disabilities make up about 20 percent of those on Medicaid in Georgia but use about 40 percent of the dollars,” said Colbert. “And seniors rely on this program as well. For seniors and those with disabilities, it covers long term health services, and critical healthcare needs and about 75 percent of nursing home stays are covered by Medicaid.”

Advocates say that some Medicaid programs offered are in-home services which can help disabled adults stay in the community and seniors stay in their homes longer. They say cuts may slash some of those in-home services and actually force the elderly for example into nursing homes sooner.

One thing about the program that many states have favored is changes in operation, i.e. offering states more control in what services are provided to residents, etc. Many leaders have indicated it would provide more flexibility for states. Colbert isn’t so certain. “I think it’s hard to have flexibility when you have less money to work with and really that’s what these Medicaid cuts are all about is sending less money to the states,” she told us.

If changes are made it may also include the formula on how the federal government provides Medicaid funding to states. The proposal is that it would be done on a per capita basis which could also include caps on the funding. “So the per capita caps would lock in our current spending rate at the 2016 levels,” says Colbert. She says that cap on spending wouldn’t take into account things like the growing senior population or consider the increase in healthcare costs. Colbert also says Georgia has “the second lowest spending across the country on Medicaid” so to be capped at that level may mean a lot of questions for the future of some services that people now rely upon.

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