Archived Story

Medicaid is about protecting ‘the least of these’

Published 5:59am Saturday, April 14, 2012

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

 

-Matthew 25:44-45,

 

Forty years ago, Alabama volunteered to participate in Medicaid – a federally sponsored insurance program dedicated to caring for the most vulnerable.

The Medicaid program is the primary way we care for at-risk children and seniors. Its impact goes well beyond making sure the elderly don’t die in misery and squalor, or that children avoid suffering lifelong debilitations from treatable conditions.

The resources generated by the program are critical to our entire state healthcare infrastructure. For every dollar the state puts into the program, the federal government matches with two more.

Without these Medicaid funds flowing into Alabama, some of our hospitals and other medical facilities would not be able to remain open.

This year, the Republican leadership in Montgomery has proposed a budget that cuts more than $175 million (over 30 percent) of the Medicaid budget.

But because we will also lose the federal matching money, we are actually losing $525 million for this critical program.

As a part of these cuts, the Republicans are cutting all funding for adult prosthetic, orthotic, and pedorthic devices.

Let’s consider what these cuts will mean for the people of Alabama. About one of every six dollars spent on Medicaid goes to nursing home care. Thousands of elderly people and their families depend on Medicaid to help pay for their nursing home expenses. Without adequate Medicaid funding, many of these elderly seniors will be kicked out of their nursing homes and forced to move in with their families or find some other arrangement.

Many more patients will be forced to go without their medication. And doctors across our state will be forced to choose between taking care of their patients versus making enough money to keep their practices open.

Governor Bentley’s own spokeswoman called these cuts “irresponsible.” The truth is that these cuts are beyond irresponsible. If we cut 30 percent of the Medicaid budget people are going to die!

The elderly and their families are not the only ones who will be hurt by these cuts. One of the most successful children’s health insurance programs in the nation, the AllKids program, relies on Medicaid funding. Without it, thousands of children will have no access to a regular doctor, and no treatment options for chronic and life-threatening problems.

Medicaid provides a necessary service that keeps Alabama children healthy, provides critical care for the elderly, provides save deliveries for newborn babies and treatment for the mentally and physically disabled. It is the best program we have that takes care of “the least of these.”

What does it say about the leadership in Montgomery if we pass this budget and turn our backs on “the least of these”?

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