By Ramona du Houx
As details emerge about the latest version of the American Health Care Act, it’s clear that bill still targets low-income workers, people with disabilities and the older people to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.
“The Senate version of the American Health Care Act remains cruel at its core and will lead to millions of people losing health insurance,” said Ann Woloson of Maine Equal Justice Partners. “This devastating proposal was built in secret, without debate or public input. And now Senate leadership is trying to rush a vote before the terrible impact of this bill becomes clear.”
Sen. Susan Collins's vote is critical to help hold back this bill that will end up kicking millions off healthcare, and result in many deaths.
According to published reports, the Senate version of the bill cuts Medicaid even more deeply than the House version and phases out Medicaid expansion, which has made health insurance available to millions of Americans.
The AHCA uses a per-person funding scheme that will starve Medicaid of the resources it needs over time.
The bill also allows states to request waivers that would allow them to reduce insurance coverage requirements for everyone, including people with pre-existing conditions.
“Voters have made clear they want more affordable health care, not less, and they certainly reject cuts to care to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy,” Woloson said. “The Senate bill will be devastating to Maine, and particularly to rural parts of the state, children and people with disabilities and older Mainers. Low-wage workers would also be hurt as they would likely see increases in premiums they pay for marketplace coverage.”
For more than 40 years, Medicaid, a federal-state partnership, has provided quality health care to low-income families. About 263,000 Mainers count on Medicaid for care.
In addition to cuts, changes in the funding mechanism for Medicaid are also being considered as part of the American Health Care Act. These funding schemes, including per-capita caps, would end the federal commitment to pay for the care each person needs, ratcheting down overall funding and shifting costs to states and individuals.
Older Mainers, people with disabilities, children and people living in rural Maine stand to lose the most under these proposals.
Maine is the oldest state in the nation and the percentage of people with disabilities is also 30 percent higher than the national average. Any reduction in federal Medicaid funds would have a devastating impact on older Mainers and people with disabilities. It would cause thousands to lose care and threaten the well-being of Maine’s most vulnerable residents.
- Nearly 50,000 low-income older Mainers receive health care through Medicaid as well 63,000 Maine people with disabilities.
- Two out of three nursing home residents are enrolled in Medicaid. The single largest expenditure for Medicaid is residential services, which includes nursing home and assisted living facilities.
- Maine has a chronic shortage of direct care workers for both older Mainers and persons with serious mental health or other disabilities, meaning that fewer services are delivered than are needed. Federal cuts would jeopardize this already too-small workforce.
Maine’s rural counties have the highest percentages of residents who rely on Medicaid for their health care — any federal cuts will disproportionately impact these counties.
- Rural counties with the largest Medicaid populations are projected to be among those with the greatest growth of seniors 65 and older. Federal cuts from block grants or per-capita caps would grow just as Maine’s population is aging creating a two-fold blow to rural Maine.
- Maine’s rural hospitals are economic drivers in their communities but they’re already in trouble and federal cuts would put them in serious jeopardy. With fewer people covered and cuts in services and provider rates, more people will seek care in hospital emergency rooms. Uncompensated care costs will go up. Hospitals may be forced to close. Medical services will leave Maine’s rural communities.
The Together for Medicaid is a collaborative effort by organizations from across the state that have joined together in opposition to significant changes to Medicaid’s financing structure that would undermine the program.