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Preserving Medicaid for the Present and the Future

I write about Medicaid fairly often and just once I wish I could spend a whole blog post extolling Medicaid’s virtues. I would love to focus on the 30 million children who have access to vaccines and regular checkups through the program or the 17 million women who, because of Medicaid, know that they don’t have to make a choice between caring for their own health and putting food on their children’s tables. I’d like to reflect on the number of unplanned pregnancies that have been avoided because of the successful Medicaid family planning program or the elderly Americans who might not be able to afford long term care if it weren’t for Medicaid.

Unfortunately, I can’t do these things. It would be irresponsible of me to spend time praising the program without calling attention to the fact that legislators across the country are trying to dismantle it. This is especially scary for the nearly 22 million adult women who rely on Medicaid and comprise the majority of Medicaid recipients

The threats to Medicaid are happening at all levels, including in the states. For example, the federal government has said that Arizona is allowed to freeze Medicaid enrollment for childless adults below the poverty line. This could impact up to 77,000 women in Arizona. New Jersey has proposed closing Medicaid enrollment for parents earning above 27.5% of the federal poverty line. This is a decrease from the current limit of 133% of the federal poverty level and could impact up to 52,760 New Jersey mothers. These are just a few examples of the current threats Medicaid is facing, and there are many more. The state of Texas just passed a bill requiring the state to formally request that their Medicaid program be turned into a block grant! On the federal level, Medicaid might not come out of the debt debate unscathed; as many advocates are worried the program could face serious cuts at the hands of the new congressional super committee.

But cuts to Medicaid don’t just impact people who are on the program now. The new health care law greatly expands access to Medicaid in order to ensure that more Americans have access to health coverage. Fifteen million currently uninsured women will gain coverage once the law is fully implemented in 2014 and 55% of them will do so through Medicaid. Any cuts made to the program now will only make it harder to implement the law and will prevent low income women from accessing the coverage they need.

So today, as advocates across the country are fighting current threats and bracing for the fights yet to come, take some time to appreciate all the good Medicaid does in this country for children, the elderly, Americans with disabilities, and women and families. But only take a little bit of time, because there is lots of work to be done. Make sure your legislators know that we need to keep Medicaid strong for the Americans who rely on it now and for those who will in the future.

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.