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Medicaid Made Simple: Health Services for 50 Million Americans

Bush Wants to Slash Services for Low-Income Families


Updated June 28, 2005
Medicaid provides health insurance for more than 50 million low-income Americans. President Bush wants to radically slash this joint federal/state lifeline in 2006 by up to $20 billion over 5 years and $60 billion over 10 years. The Republican-led US House of Representatives agreed and even added to Medicaid reductions.

The deep Medicaid cuts put forth by George Bush are equal to the cost of providing health coverage of 1.8 million children, or 345,000 senior citizens.

The following facts are to help you understand the Medicaid debate.

How important is Medicaid to US citizens? Medicaid is the only health insurance held by 50 million low-income Americans

Medicaid pays for more than one-third of all births in the US

1 in 4 US children have their only health insurance through Medicaid

7 million disabled and blind persons have health coverage only via Medicaid

Medicaid is the largest payer of HIV/AIDS care in the US

70% of Medicaid recipients older than 15 are women

Medicaid accounts for 50% of all long-term care dollars spent in the US

Medicaid pays for the care of 70% of all people in US nursing homes

Who is eligible for Medicaid? Persons and families with poverty-level incomes

Children under 6 whose family income is 133% of the poverty-level

Pregnant woman whose family income is 133% of the poverty-level

Blind, disabled, ill & elderly persons whose income may be above poverty-level

Infants under 1 and pregnant women under certain other income tests

“Medically needy” persons

What is covered by Medicaid? Vaccines for children

Physician services

Rural health clinic services

Prenatal care

Pediatric and family nurse practitioner services

Inpatient hospital services

Outpatient hospital services

Periodic screening, diagnostic and treatment services for children under 21

Laboratory and x-ray services

Prescribed drugs and prosthetic devices

Nursing facility services for children under 21

Rehabilitation and physical therapy services

Home health care for persons eligible for skilled-nursing services

Nursing facility services for persons 21 or older

Home and community-based care for persons with certain chronic ills

How do President Bush and House Republicans propose to cut Medicaid services? The Bush Administration has offered few specifics ideas as to how to cut Medicaid services. Here are a few that have been publicly aired….

Raise income eligibility for Medicaid, thereby cutting millions off from health care service.

Require co-payments of all Medicaid recipients. Since Medicaid users have low and poverty-level incomes, millions would be unable to access health services for lack of money.

Put “caps” on Medicaid medical services. That means that a person has a limit in Medicaid services they can receive.

For instance, it has been suggested that patients judged to be in a vegetative state may be denied services (life-support systems, feeding tubes) once that spending cap has been reached. The Terri Schiavo case is an excellent example of such a situation. This is already being done in Texas, based on a law signed by the Governor Bush in 1999.

Quotes about Medicaid

Physician Mark Johnson in the Seattle Inquirer, “Medicaid is one of the most cost-effective sources of health coverage among both private and public plans.”

Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, a Republican, “ …to balance the federal budget off the backs of the poorest people in the country is simply unacceptable. You don’t pull feeding tubes from people. You don’t pull the wheelchair out from under the child with muscular dystrophy.”

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), “I am greatly concerned that the President and some Republican members of Congress have put the Medicaid program on the budget chopping block, putting the heath of seniors, women, children and people with disabilities at risk.”

Catholic Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, “Health care is an essential safeguard of human life and dignity and there is an obligation for society to ensure that every person be able to realize this right.”

Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) says that Medicaid can’t be cut because it “serves the lame, the poor, the blind, the needy, those who have no resources if we pull away this central stand in the safety net.”

Alan Sager & Deborah Socolar, both of Boston University School of Public Health, “…many employers, state Medicaid programs and the Bush administration want to force patients to pay more. That’s a cost-control strategy that cannot work, and it is adding to the tens of millions of underinsured Americans going without needed care. Patients should not have to forgo necessary care.”

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