Sunday’s Springfield Republican included an op-ed by HCFA Executive Director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, calling on Washington’s deficit reduction “Super Committee” to reject cuts in Medicaid and other health programs for the vulnerable. Springfield’s Congressman Richard Neal is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, with jurisdiction over Medicaid. The Ways and Means Committee will be making its recommendations to the Super Committee this week.
Here’s the op-ed:
Viewpoint: Cuts in health care will eventually cost us all
Published: Sunday, October 09, 2011
By Amy Whitcomb Slemmer
Executive Director Health Care For All
From now until Thanksgiving, 12 people will be making decisions that will have profound consequences for the rest of us. A dozen hand-picked members of Congress-six Democrats and six Republicans-make up the congressionally appointed “super committee” established under the debt ceiling compromise reached in early August.
The super committee has been tasked with developing a plan to hack $1.5 trillion off the federal deficit. Everything is on the table, including deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. There is no denying that our nation faces enormous economic challenges. High unemployment rates have squeezed state budgets and forced many families to do more with less.
At Health Care For All, we have a toll-free HelpLine that takes thousands of calls each year from individuals who have been laid off and in many cases must rely on subsidized health care in order to receive critically needed medical services.
The national economic downturn has significantly increased the number of these calls to our HelpLine and, more importantly, underscored the need to invest more, not less, in Medicaid and Medicare services.
Yet, it is uncertain what path our leaders in Washington will take to balance our national books. It is our hope it will not be on the backs of our state’s most vulnerable individuals.
Medicaid provides health insurance to over 1.3 million Massachusetts residents, including more than 530,000 children, 134,000 seniors and more than 255,000 people with disabilities. The return on investment for the taxpayers who support these essential programs is invaluable.
Medicaid provides people with disabilities with the supports needed to lead independent lives. It provides health care coverage for children whose parents can’t afford private health insurance or in this economy have lost their jobs.
Medicaid provides access to preventive care needed to stay healthy. When our elderly can no longer live on their own, Medicaid provides the essential help to either keep them at home, or in nursing home care when home care isn’t enough.
Here in Massachusetts, state officials are working hard to lower costs while providing better care to residents who are insured through Medicaid and Medicare. These programs are beginning to focus on prevention and wellness — giving people access to services that help prevent more serious complications that would require more costly treatment.
Cutting Medicaid simply shifts costs to states and low-income residents, threatening coverage and ultimately driving up overall health care system costs.
When uninsured people need care and do not have access to a primary care physician they are forced to seek treatment in acute care settings like emergency rooms. The care provided in these important centers is both expensive and often uncoordinated. The cost for this expensive and uncompensated care is passed along in the form of higher insurance premiums.
In the end we will all pay for Medicaid cuts, and caring for the uninsured is significantly more expensive than investing in effective Medicare and Medicaid health care coverage. Committees of jurisdiction, such as the House Ways and Means Committee that U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, sits on, have until Oct. 14 to send their recommendations to the super committee.
Now is the time to let our members of Congress know that Massachusetts residents are looking for a deficit reduction plan that is strategically balanced. We believe that asking the most fortunate among us to pay their fair share is vital.
Cutting a program that provides health care to 1.3 million low-income Massachusetts residents — including children, seniors, and people with disabilities — puts the burden of deficit reduction on the most vulnerable among us. It represents neither a shared sacrifice nor a strategic approach. We can and must do better than that.