How’s this for news? A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that when poor people have access to health insurance, they’re more likely to see doctors on a regular basis, get preventive screenings, access and take prescription medications, and have an overall positive outlook on their health. This might seem painfully obvious but our elected officials in Congress are presently considering the worthiness of providing health insurance to the poor through Medicaid, the state-administered federal health care program for low-income individuals. In the interest of resuscitating America’s economy and cutting the budget, Medicaid is on the chopping block. Unfortunately, women and children stand to lose the most if Medicaid is cut.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, there are currently two major threats to Medicaid taking shape in the federal budget debate – “block grants” and “caps”:
- “Block grants”. The block grant contained in the House Budget Resolution would dramatically cut federal Medicaid funds and significantly restructure the program to allow states to limit eligibility, reduce or eliminate services and further lower provider payment rates. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the House block grant proposal would reduce federal Medicaid spending by 35% in 2022 and 49% in 2030. Over the next ten years, the block grant would cause federal Medicaid funding to decrease by $750 billion nationwide, with 19.4 million fewer people receiving Medicaid in 2021.
- “Caps”. A current Senate proposal to “cap” federal spending would impose across the board cuts if federal spending equaled 20.6% of the Gross Domestic Product. If this cap were imposed in 2013, federal Medicaid spending would be reduced by $547 billion over the next nine years. Such a dramatic loss of funding would likely force the creation of a Medicaid block grant because states could not meet current federal requirements with such greatly reduced funding.
Representing more than two-thirds of the adults who receive Medicaid, women would be disproportionately impacted by these proposed cuts. A whopping 77% of all non-elderly adults receiving Medicaid dollars are women, many of whom are the primary caretakers of young children who also rely on Medicaid for health care. The elderly and disabled, two groups who count on Medicaid for help covering the cost of services such as institutional care and home-based therapy, are also dominated by women – making up 69% and 53% of benefit recipients, in their respective categories.
We are already seeing examples of how cutting women off from Medicaid and the services to which it provides access can be harmful. Millions of women rely on support from Medicaid to access annual gynecological exams, including pap smears, cancer screenings, family planning services, and testing and treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases. So imagine the impact when Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of reproductive health care, was forced to temporarily close the doors of its Indiana health centers to more than 9,000 Medicaid patients. Women in need of treatments, emergency contraception, etc. were turned away. Whereas the Indiana debacle was the result of an anti-choice social agenda and not the federal budget debate, the story ends the same – women’s health finds itself thrown under the bus so easily in the political maneuverings of (mostly) wealthy, white men. While I agree that we need creative solutions to get the budget under control and relieve America of this terrible economic situation, we cannot do so on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.
Learn more about the proposed budget cuts and how you can add your voice to those calling on the Obama Administration to oppose harmful cuts and/or restructuring of Medicaid at MomsRising.org.