In a year in which the nations 46.6 million uninsured people have re-emerged at the forefront of the national political landscape, it is troubling that Medicaid, the healthcare safety net for some 55 million Americans, is under increasing stress. More than half the states are counting on Medicaid as a key underpinning of their efforts to expand health coverage, and many seek to bolster the program, not cut it.
Nevertheless, we are in the second year of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which is projected to slow federal Medicaid spending by $11.5 billion over five years and by $43.2 billion over 10 years. And the Bush administration continues its multipronged assault on the program. It seeks to cut Medicaid spending by an additional $25 billion over the next five years, mainly by shifting costs to the states. The Democrat-led Congress isnt going to go along with those cuts, but because of fiscal constraints, it probably wont roll back the 2005 restraints.
The Deficit Reduction Act, meanwhile, keeps on taking away, aided and abetted by the administration. The law mandates that anyone seeking care under Medicaid show the healthcare provider proof of U.S. citizenship, including a passport or a combination of birth certificate and drivers license. But state officials say the administration went beyond the law by requiring people to submit original documents or copies certified by a government agency, resulting in tens of thousands of people being dropped from Medicaid rolls. Ask yourself how often you have carried around such information or even had it handy in an emergency.