Know how the current health care debate impacts us all

June 19, 2017 Michael Connors
June 18, 2017

Do you know or love someone on Medicaid? A neighbor, a child who goes to school with your son or daughter, or a close relative? Medicaid today provides services for more than 72 million people across the United States, so chances of you knowing someone is likely.

Some people who are on Medicaid might not realize it. If they do, they might not know how much is currently at risk of it being taken away. At the national level, there is an effort to significantly defund the Medicaid program by $800 billion over the next 10 years.

Many working-class consumers might be unaware that Medicaid is called something different

People also might not know that their health insurance is a Medicaid program. For example, in states where Providence has a presence ‘Apple Health’ is the name for the Washington State Medicaid program and in Oregon State is it ‘Oregon Health Plan.’ For children on Medicaid in Alaska the program is called ‘Denali KidCare’ and ‘Healthy Montana Kids’ in Montana State.

For all consumers of health care, it is important to understand what is at jeopardy

Medicaid provides services across the full spectrum of life, such as:

  • Births and care for newborns
  • Nursing home care for the elderly (Medicaid, not just Medicare)
  • Medicaid is the single largest payer for mental health services in the U.S.
  • It funds school based health care and services including immunizations, supports for children with disabilities, vision, and hearing testing, etc.
  • Medicaid is health insurance coverage for most foster children
  • It provides long term health services for people with developmental disabilities and children with complex medical issues
  • Long term care and services for disabled adults in low income families
  • Home and community based services for fragile seniors “aging in place” at home
  • Special funding for rural clinics and critical access hospitals
  • A life line for prevention, screening and treatment during public health threats and emergencies

Not on Medicaid? You will still be affected by changes to Obamacare (also known as the Affordable Care Act)

If you have private insurance, your cost may increase making it less affordable. If you are in a health plan that you are paying for using the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare subsidies, this money may no longer be coming to you. Other health plans options offered through the health exchange are becoming fewer and more costly. Also, like many of us, if you have a condition or illness that started before you got insured, coverage for the cost of that condition is at risk of going away.

All consumers should know and understand the greatest disruption in the Medicaid program since its origin in 1965

Most people know that Medicaid provides health care coverage to the poor and vulnerable including women, children, the elderly and the disabled.

In addition, over the last several years, Medicaid has added adults who have an income less than $16,000 a year and for a family of three an annual income would be approximately $27,000.

Adding people and working families to Medicaid provided them with better access to quality care. This meant we were able to address their health concerns that had been neglected for years. Unfortunately, if people are left without having access and a way to help pay for their new care, their health issues become more complex. The costs for more complex health issues will continue to rise. At the same time, funding for Medicaid programs will become even less sufficient than what they are today.

The economy and jobs will be negatively affected by the sudden loss of coverage and care. This will lead to a sicker workforce, lower productivity and increases in absenteeism.

All that will remain—a broken U.S. health care system for us all.

States might stop providing coverage to adults in Medicaid expansion programs due to less federal money

It is critical that people who are enrolled in Medicaid today stay enrolled. Do not let eligibility lapse. If you hear of changes being made to the program in your state, here are some other suggestions:

  • Ask doctors for at a three month supply of maintenance medications and information about discount drug programs sponsored by major drug manufacturers.
  • Ask for copies of medical records in advance if you need to switch doctors.
  • Check with health professionals about options for continued care with someone else.
  • For ongoing conditions, try to get established with a health care professional at a safety net clinic—health departments, federally qualified health clinics, rural health clinics, etc.
  • Take advantage of health and wellness programs and screenings at work, community centers, elder care, church or other health programs.
  • Take a look at the tax credits being offered to help pay for private health insurance. Learn how they work.
  • Check with your employer about health insurance options. Tax credits may help pay part of the cost of insurance.
  • Start looking into low-cost commercial insurance options. Try to get catastrophic coverage at least until you find more affordable options.
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