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Put down the Medicaid Political Football

by Michelle K. Wolf

July 13, 2011 | 11:47 pm

Since Danny is still at Camp Ramah, I’ve had a little more time to read my email inbox, and it is buzzing about all the proposed Federal cuts to Medicaid, (called Medi-Cal in our state) and how those cuts would impact families taking care of a child or adult with developmental disabilities. The Obama Administration is opposed to most Medicaid cuts, but the issue is still in play, tossed around like a political football.

Compared to Medicare and Social Security, Medicaid is the lesser known of the three major entitlement Federal programs, but is absolutely essential for the most vulnerable populations in society. As the Almanac of Policy Issues says, “The significance of Medicaid’s role in providing health insurance cannot be overstated. The Medicaid program covers millions of low-income women, children, elderly people and individuals with disabilities. “

For adults with developmental disabilities, Medicaid is their main source of funding for almost everything they need or do –medical care, in-home care, residential services, even transportation. For us, Medicaid is our secondary health insurance for Danny, after our private PPO insurance, and it has helped with big ticket items, like wheelchairs and voice output devices (which run around $8,000). If the program is block granted, that means states would receive a fixed amount of money, and many programs would be likely be drastically reduced or eliminated. With spending caps, the ceilings will be set well below current spending, again resulting in program cuts.

On The Arc website (the national group founded in 1953 by parents originally called the National Association for Retarded Children), there were moving stories about the four families who traveled to Washington DC last week to tell their story, including Natalie and Ruben from Texas.

I identified with them at once—parents of 31-year-old TJ, who was born with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities. He needs assistance with everyday activities like bathing, brushing his teeth, getting dressed in the morning, communicating effectively, walking, and preparing his meals. Medicaid covers TJ’s neurologist, endocrinologist, rehabilitation specialist, occasional home care, speech therapist, orthopedic specialist, primary care, and his prescriptions. Medicaid Home and Community Services funding has also paid for modifications to their home that allow TJ to live with them, like ramps and bathroom modifications.

If cuts are passed to Medicaid, there will be increased pressure for religious and faith groups to pick up the slack and fund/provide more help directly to their congregants and members. In essence, it would be turning back the clock to the time when some local communities did an adequate job of taking care of the vulnerable, and others didn’t. Doesn’t sound like a fair playing field to me.

 

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