Federal budget threatens Medicaid for Washington kids

 

The U.S. House of Representatives’ recently passed budget proposal for fiscal year 2012 would deal a great setback to our state’s progress in covering all kids.

healthy kids, healthy adults

Yesterday, a poll released by First Focus shows that most Americans disagree with the current proposal and want to prioritize children. Against American values, this House-proposed federal budget imposes a block grant and makes deep spending cuts to Medicaid, gutting the very programs that kids and families rely on.

Medicaid is health coverage that is jointly funded by state and federal dollars, and along with its companion, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), it covers close to one-third of all U.S. children. It’s thanks to these programs that more of the nation’s kids have health coverage than ever before. 

Four out of every 10 Washington kids get the comprehensive medical, dental and mental health services they need via Apple Health for Kids, which is our state’s name for the combined services of Medicaid, CHIP and a few other public programs. 

Many of these kids don’t have affordable coverage through their parents' jobs, but these programs provide flu shots so they can stay healthy, hearing tests and glasses so they can succeed in school, and routine physicals so they can play sports. In many families, they provide children with the specific care they need to thrive in the face of common and challenging medical conditions such as asthma, toothaches and ADHD. Medicaid is doing the lion’s share of this work, covering 91 percent of the 700,000 Washington children enrolled in Apple Health for Kids.

The House-passed federal budget proposal makes $771 billion in cuts to Medicaid over the next 10 years, threatening health care for 638,000 Washington children, according to analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It would hurt not only the young, but vulnerable Washingtonians of all ages who rely on nursing homes or need dental care – two services that would be stripped under the Houses’s proposal. And it would impose a block grant that shifts more costs to already cash-strapped states.

With a block grant, our state would receive only a fixed amount of federal funding. Block grants don’t allow for funding adjustments in order to respond to greater-than-expected health care needs. A block grant would force incredibly tough choices on state officials during the next economic downturn – choices such as eliminating coverage for certain groups of people, reducing provider payments, capping enrollment and eliminating critical programs such as CHIP.

Apple Health for Kids is already the subject of $15.1 million in proposed cuts and premium increases in the state Senate, and the House federal proposal would further damage our popular, successful, cost-effective program.

As federal performance bonuses attest, Medicaid is doing a great job for Washington children – providing consistent, quality and preventive care that reduces costly emergency room visits. And half of Americans agree, according to the First Focus poll released yesterday, that there should be no reductions at all to Medicaid or CHIP. Tell Congress these budget decisions are against American values, you want what’s best for kids, and that the House budget resolution puts them and their families at risk for decades to come.  

*Picture above right by Tegra Stone Nuess

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