Benefit Bulletin: April 2018

Benefit Bulletin: April 2018

Easier Said Than Done: Public Unconvinced That Medicaid Spending Should Be Cut

By Chairman Art "Coop" Cooper

About one in five older and disabled Medicare beneficiaries has income so low that their state Medicaid programs pay some or most of their Medicare costs.  That includes Medicare Part B premiums and out-of-pocket costs, as well as services that aren’t covered by Medicare, such as vision, dental and nursing home care.

Medicaid is a federal and state healthcare program for low - income people.  By law, the federal government pays no less than 50% of the costs, and states pay the balance.  For the poorest states, the federal portion can be as high as 73%.

Last year Congress considered a major Medicaid overhaul that would transition the program from one that covers qualified applicants whose incomes are low enough, to a system that provides a fixed per capita payment or block grant to states.  The Congressional Budget Office estimated this change would cut federal spending on Medicaid by more than 25% over the next decade.  Despite lawmakers’ failure to enact the change to Medicaid last year, some lawmakers in Congress and president Trump may try again this year.

Implementing Medicaid cuts is proving even harder than getting the cuts enacted into law.  In Connecticut for example, the state General Assembly recently voted overwhelmingly to reverse healthcare program cuts that they had passed just a few months before.  Connecticut’s 2017 budget agreement lowered the Medicaid program’s income eligibility limits last year.  The cuts, originally planned to go into effect January 1, would have kicked an estimated 86,000 older and disabled people off Medicare Savings Programs which pays Part B premiums and out -of - pocket costs, and moved another 27,000 to a second level of the program that provides less financial assistance.  But, by January 8, 2018, the cuts were reversed by an overwhelming 130-3 vote, despite lingering concerns over financing.

Medicaid is popular with the public.  When asked about their views on Medicaid, three-fourths (74 percent) of the public, including majorities of Democrats (84 percent), independents (76 percent), and Republicans (61 percent), hold a favorable view of Medicaid.  Majorities also support increasing funding for Medicaid or keeping it the same, with 40% increasing funding, and 47% who support keeping funding at the same level.

TSCL is disappointed in the repeated attempts of lawmakers to reduce funding for the healthcare of their sickest and poorest constituents in 2017.  TSCL urges all of you to get ready to vote this election year.  Start now by checking that your voter registration is up to date, particularly if you have moved recently.

 

Source: “ 10 Charts About Public Opinion On Medicaid,” Kaiser Family Foundation, June 27, 2017.  “Medicare Savings Program Cuts Delayed By Two Months,” Mackenzie Rigg, The CT Mirror, December 5, 2017.  “General Assembly Reverses Cuts To Medicare Program,” Keith Phaneuf, The CT Mirror, January 8, 2018.

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