Medicaid is now the nation’s largest health program, serving 56 million low-income and disabled Americans, our most vulnerable. In 2010, 77% of Medicaid enrollees were children and families, while 23% were elderly or disabled. About one-third of Medicaid payments go to nursing-home care for seniors. Medicaid is administered by each state with minimum thresholds for eligibility and coverage set by the federal government. Massachusetts Medicaid, called MassHealth, is indispensable for 1.3 million people in the Commonwealth. More than half of children in low-income families, half of people with disabilities and one-third of all births in Massachusetts are covered by MassHealth.
The ACA strengthens and improves Medicaid by opening eligibility to all individuals between 19 and 64 years old with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level ($14,856 for individuals, $30,656 for a family of four). For the first time, low-income adults without children will be guaranteed coverage through Medicaid and parents will be eligible at uniform income levels across all states. This expansion will protect our neediest and keep them out of emergency rooms, an expense ultimately passed on to insured consumers.
Some GOP voices refuse to see the dynamic effects of this program. They want to reverse the progress made by the ACA and convert Medicaid to a state block grant letting states abolish minimum eligibility and standards of care. While I agree we need to contain costs, I oppose turning Medicaid into a lump-sum payment for the states. This would give states less money with no accountability and allow conservative governors to balance their budgets by cutting health care coverage for the disadvantaged. With block grants, many of the neediest among us would be denied basic care – this is both irresponsible and uncompassionate.
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