The recent economic downturn is forcing states to “scale back safety-net health-coverage programs,” USA Today is reporting. Medicaid, which eats up 17 percent of state budgets is on the chopping block and millions of low-income adults and children are in danger of losing their health insurance.
Sen. John McCain’s solution is to push even more people off the rolls. As the Wonk Room reported, McCain recently proposed cutting $1.3 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid to plug the $1.3 trillion funding gap in his budget-neutral health care plan. And while the campaign has argued that McCain will make up the shortfall by finding trillions of dollars worth of “savings,” most observers disagree.
CAPAF’s very own Peter Harbage, for instance, who conducted the initial analysis of the effects of McCain’s cuts on both Medicare and Medicaid had released a new report documenting the consequences of McCain’s proposed “savings.”
According to Harbage, “the only way for Sen. McCain to achieve his goal is to slow Medicaid growth to 5.5 percent per year –well below what is would take to maintain enrollment growth and match the rising costs of medical care.” To accomplish this, McCain would have to lock in federal spending limits “through so called block grants, which deliver federal funds according to pre-set budget limits rather than on a needs basis, as is now the case.”
In other words, as unemployment creeps up and more Americans lose their health insurance (a 1 percent increase in unemployment resulted in 1 million more people enrolling in Medicaid and SCHIP and another 1.1 million more people uninsured), the federal government will sit on its hands, offering no extra Medicaid funding. Here are the consequences of McCain’s one-size-fits all block grant:
- Total program cut of $738 billion over 10 years
- 29 states could lose more than $5 billion in federal Medicaid spending over 10 years
- Every state could see a reduction of more than $1 billion in total Medicaid spending (federal and state) over 10 years
By limiting average annual growth to 5.5 percent — compared to the estimated 5.9 percent growth rate needed to keep up with medical inflation and Medicaid enrollment growth, states will have to make cutbacks in “program, eligibility and benefits or both.”