Amendments to the American Health Care Act, the GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, are set to be voted on by the House this Thursday. Among many of the proposed changes are several related to reducing federal funding towards Medicaid, the federally-backed but state-run public aid program that provides health care to millions of low-income Americans. The GOP argues that cutting funding to Medicaid is necessary in order to reduce deficits in other areas of our national budget.
About Medicaid & Long Term Care
Medicaid reductions are a dangerous prospect for many of America’s elderly. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care estimates that 70% of people aged 65+ will need some form of long term care, whether within their own homes or within a nursing home. As of today, Medicaid spends $158 billion on long term care support services, including $55 billion towards nursing home residency and associated services. Medicaid is the largest payer of long term care, responsible for the payment of more than 50% of all nursing home costs. National Consumer Voice also says that yearly fees for a shared room in a nursing home cost nearly $83,000 in 2016. Considering the expense of nursing homes and other long term care support services, reducing funding for these programs at the expense of the disadvantaged elderly seems to be one of the cruelest ways to reduce our budget deficit.
Current System and Proposed Changes to Medicaid
The current program allows for the federal government to evaluate state spending on Medicaid and to distribute funds based on that spending. Therefore, the more people on Medicaid in a particular state, the higher the expenses are likely to be, and the more money the state will receive earmarked for Medicaid. The latest amendment calls for a predetermined amount of money to be distributed to states for Medicaid, with no adjustments made for enrollment increases or inflation of health care costs over time.
The other proposed amendment gives states the ability to immediately halt Medicaid expansion, which stands in contrast to the initial version of bill that called for expansion to be stopped by January 1, 2020.
What These Changes Could Mean
Reducing the funding that states receive for Medicaid would result in a string of major changes that would ultimately lead to lower quality care, services and facilities. For example, if a Medicaid recipient receives care within their own home, a reduction in funding could mean less nursing assistance with feeding and bathing. For nursing home residents, facilities receiving less from Medicaid may be forced to cut staff, resulting in reduced resident supervision and an obvious decline in patient care and attention. Another fear of Medicaid recipients is that the reduced funding would cut their monthly Personal Needs Allowance (PNA). Currently, the per person monthly PNA is a minimum of $30. This goes towards personal care and entertainment items, such as phone services, magazines/newspapers, haircuts, clothing and other needs.
For many, you may be wondering how this impacts you personally. If we consider that the average cost of a shared room in a nursing home is close to $83,000 and you anticipate a loved one living an average of 10 years in a facility, you would have to set aside $830,000 in order to cover the costs of living in a nursing home. For many of us with aging and/or sick parents, our own small children, busy careers and day-to-day financial concerns, it’s hard to imagine coming up with the money needed to place a loved one in a facility that can care for them when we cannot. Even if some of our loved ones have saved well in anticipation of a potential move to a nursing home, more of them weren’t able to set aside such a large amount of money in the midst of all of the other expenses they faced over the years. This is precisely why Medicaid is the single largest payer of all long term care services, including nursing home stays.
Make Your Voice Heard
If you would like to let your members of congress know that you oppose the proposed changes to Medicaid, please click here to send a pre-drafted email urging them to vote against Medicaid reform. The vote is expected to pass the House on Thursday, but will still be required to be voted on by the Senate before becoming law. Please, we urge you to speak up and out against Medicaid reform.