Friday, August 17, 2012

Catnip 8/17/12: Ignore Ryan's Medicaid Cuts at Your Peril


Another from Mt. Diablo, more majestic in 1000 px.

Have to go in early today so no long notes, but I did want to highlight an important story: While the campaigns quibble over Medicare, the real health care policy problem is going practically unnoticed - and that's Paul Ryan's devastating cuts to Medicaid.

But Ryan’s plan delivers: It would reduce growth in Medicaid spending by $800 billion in a decade and repeal the Medicaid coverage expansion under the Democrats’ health care law.

All told, the CBO has estimated that the amount of money spent on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program would plummet — from 2 percent of GDP in 2011 to 1.25 percent in 2030 and then 1 percent in 2050.

Block grants would give states vast freedom on how to spend the Medicaid money, without the current federal rules about who gets covered and what coverage they get. Medicaid would no longer be an entitlement for poor children, pregnant women, low-income disabled and elderly Americans in nursing homes.

This is why Romney mentioned nursing homes in his little speech yesterday - to deflect attention from the cuts that Ryan makes, which would throw far more elderly out onto the streets. Here's Biden:

Ryan’s “massive cuts,” Joe Biden said on the campaign trail this week, “could throw 19 million people in distress off of Medicaid, including 1 million seniors, roughly 75 percent of whom are women. How do they think these people in nursing homes are there? Who do they think pays for that? Seventy-five percent of those octogenarians, those elderly — I mean genuinely elderly — persons in homes, they’re there because of Medicaid,” he said.

But back to the low-income citizens and kids. Right now, those people are showing up in emergency rooms, driving up the cost of insurance. Medicaid covers some of the payments to hospitals for this population. Without this safety net, costs are going to explode for hospitals and insurers alike - or, we can start turning people away from care altogether. You get sick, you can't afford it, you die. It really is just that simple.

62 million people a year are served by Medicaid - that's roughly 1 in 5 Americans. Ryan's budget cuts Medicaid by 34%, or $1.4 trillion, in the next decade, and estimates are that up to 30 million people will lose coverage.

As one health care professional says, it would be "total chaos" if this were to happen. Kaiser has a fact sheet here.

We will see if this gains traction - it's a far bigger problem than people realize.