Tag Archives: Medicaid

Radical Right:Radical States


When President Obama took office amidst the worst recession in three generations, he immediately focused his energy on enacting a comprehensive plan to revive the nation’s economy.

Newly elected Republicans, however, have interpreted their temporary rise to power in an entirely different way. Where Obama saw an immediate need to grow the nation’s economy, GOP leaders are seizing their moment to force longstanding GOP fantasies upon the people they govern. Several GOP-led states are pushing plans to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Twelve states are considering unconstitutional bills “nullifying” the Affordable Care Act.

-Arizona Repub licans are lining up behind a plan to unconstitutionally strip citizenship from millions of Americans.

– New Hampshire Republicans have returned to the GOP’s favorite pastime of denying gay Americans their constitutional rights. Given the opportunity to lead, far-right politicians have decided instead to ignore the nation’s needs and pursue their own narrow, unpopular ideological vendettas.

INTIMIDATION FORCE: While congressional Republicans block long-needed funds intended to help the states keep police, public schools, and Medicaid running even in the middle of a weak economy, right-wing state lawmakers have seized upon their states’ budget crisis as an opportunity to make life even harder for workers. Indiana, Idaho, and Tennessee all have legislation in the works to cut teachers’ ability to collectively bargain. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) wants to strip all state workers of their collective bargaining rights . One Missouri lawmaker even proposed rolling back child labor laws. But none of these plans hold a candle to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker‘s (R) assault on his state’s workforce. Walker plans to eliminate many collective bargaining rights and force state workers to give up nearly 20 percent of their pay to cover their existing pension and health benefits. Worse, in a statement that seems more likely to emerge from Stalinist Russia than from a modern democratic society, Walker threatened to activate the Wisconsin National Guard to intimidate any workers who protest his plans. To their credit, Walker’s constituents have not been silenced by his threat of military force. About 13,000 protesters stormed the state capitol in opposition to Walker’s anti-worker plan. Hundreds more protectors met Walker at the governor’s office. Even the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers released a statement telling Walker that “[t]he right to negotiate wages and benefits is a fundamental underpinning of our middle class.” Nevertheless, Walker doubled down on Fox News Tuesday night, reiterating his threat to use the National Guard to put down dissenting voices.

PARTY LIKE IT’S 1829: Meanwhile, 12 other states are considering an unconstitutional tactic that President George Washington once described as “preposterous and anarchic.” Last year, a leading Confederate apologist named Tom Woods published a book touting an antebellum practice known as “nullification,” in which states pass laws claiming to “nullify” a federal law. There’s only one problem — the Constitution expressly forbids this practice, proclaiming that federal laws “shall be the supreme law of the land” and binding upon each state. Nevertheless, the GOP-controlled Idaho House just passed a bill claiming to nullify the Afford able Care Act , and many other GOP lawmakers are itching to follow suit. While nullification is unambiguously unconstitutional, these bills could have a tragic effect on low-income Americans and on state budgets. Idaho’s Attorney General recently warned that, because federal law permits states to opt out of Medicaid, a state law attempting to nullify health reform could inadvertently kick Idaho out of the Medicaid program. If this occurred, the state would lose over $1 billion in federal grants to administer its Medicaid program — an amount that equals approximately two- fifths of the state’s overall budget , and it would have to chose between eliminating health coverage for the 223,198 Idahoans who currently depend on Medicaid, or implementing similarly draconian cuts such as slashing its public schools budget by 85 percent.

REPEALING CITIZENSHIP: Not to be outdone, Arizona Republicans are pushing an equally unconstitutional plan to strip citizenship from the children of undocumented immigrants. In 1856, the Supreme Court handed down its most infamous decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford holding, among other things, that a former slave was not welcome into the community of U.S. citizens. Eleven years and a bloody Civil War later, the war-torn nation ratified the Fourteenth Amendment for the very purpose of overruling this repulsive holding. As the Supreme Court explained more than a century ago , the 14th Amendment ensures that all persons born in the United States are automatically U.S. citizens — with rare exceptions such as the children of diplomats. Nevertheless, far-right Arizona lawmakers are now pushing a fundamentally un-American bill to create an underclass of children born in this country but unable to call any nation their own. Apparently, the Constitution doesn’t apply when Republicans see an opportunity to score points

HEALTH CARE: Death By Budget Cut


The Tucson shooting last week shocked the nation. For Arizona citizens, however, the violence lays a fresh wound to a state plagued by recent tragedies. In November, Mark Price, a father of six who had been battling leukemia for a year, died due to complications with his chemotherapy. While a bone marrow transplant could have saved Price’s life, he didn’t receive it in time. The next month, the same fate befell another Arizonan. Now, a plumber in need of a new heart, a high school volleyball coach in need of a new lung, and a father of four in need of a liver remain among the 96 Arizonans who have been facing death since Oct. 1. On that day, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) and the GOP-led legislature decided the state could no longer afford to support organ transplants for Medicaid patients and callously cut the service. Looking at a $1 billion program deficit by July 2011, Brewer dealt “a death sentence” to these Arizonans to recoup only  one-tenth of a percent from the projected shortfall. Adding insult to grave injury, Brewer deemed such “Cadillac” treatment for the dying as “optional” and consistently ignored funding solutions from her own party while championing tax cuts and funding measures that could be easily re-routed to save the transplant program. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) had been among those warning against the danger of solving budget woes “on the backs” of dying Arizonans. But rather than heed that warning, many Republican governors are electing to follow Brewer’s example of slashing vital Medicaid services and refusing federal help provided by the new health care law. By doing so, these governors needlessly endanger vulnerable populations and risk importing Arizona’s tragic consequences.

PAYING THE PRICE:   On top of eliminating dental services and physical exams for low-income residents, Brewer and the GOP-controlled legislature  took a knife to state reimbursement for seven types of transplants, including certain heart, lung, pancreatic, bone marrow, and liver transplants for Medicaid patients. Using inaccurate data, the state argued that the “procedures have poor outcomes and that most patients die after the transplants.” In fact, survival rates are higher than the state says. The drastic cuts have left hospitals bereft of any sustainable way to keep 98 affected patients on transplant lists. According to Arizona’s Medicaid agency, either hospitals have to “fund the transplants of patients  without payers through their charity care dollars” or the patient would have to find “some other donor source.” Without any funding alternative, these gravely ill are slowly succumbing to the inevitable. Since the October cuts, one of the 98 has passed away  each month. And now, denied a liver transplant because the state said funding her treatment wouldn’t be “cost effective,” one of the remaining 96 patients is “going to leave the state to get the surgery she badly needs” to live. Desperate to counteract what they are characterizing as “death by budget cut,” Arizona doctors even proposed cutting other procedures, like tests conducted before surgery, to compensate for the cost of the transplant. “Something needs to be done,” said Dr. Emmanuel Katsanis, a bone marrow transplant expert at the University of Arizona. “There’s no doubt that people aren’t going to make it because of this decision. What do you tell someone? You need a transplant but you have to raise the money?” State Democratic lawmakers who “made it very clear at the time of the vote that this was a death sentence” are so incensed over the GOP’s refusal to fix what one Republican lawmaker admitted was a “mistake” that many are now pointing to the GOP as the source of actual “death panels” under “Brewercare.”

REFUSING RESPONSIBILITY:   Democratic lawmakers, physicians, and transplant patients gathered at a news conference last month to  plead with Brewer to call a special legislative session so lawmakers could restore the $1.4 million transplant program. But such pleas fell on deaf ears as Brewer repeatedly refused to budge on her  draconian budget. Believing “Arizona has provided Cadillac insurance for Medicaid,” Brewer insisted that “the state only has so much money” to provide dying patients with “so many optional kinds of care” and rejected to hold a special session until she “receives a funding proposal for either the reinstatement of the transplant program or the $1 billion shortfall for Medicaid.” Of course, Brewer has been ignoring such proposals since December. Moved by the 98 patients’ plight, Illinois State GOP Central Committeeman Steven Daglas developed  26 funding solutions tailored to Arizona that would allow the state to fully fund transplants for all the remaining patients without raising any new revenue. One such proposal included using $2 million from an AIG settlement for the program. However, after multiple attempts to reach out, Daglas has yet to receive a response from the governor. Brewer, it seems, is busy holding tax breaks for the wealthy as a higher priority. In response to an Arizona State University study implicating past tax cuts — not transplants — as “a major cause of the state’s underlying budget troubles,” Brewer  insisted that “tax cuts are never a mistake” and proposed a  100 percent tax break for manufacturing companies over patient welfare as the new year’s first order of business. Other programs Brewer has found more worthy of funding include  algae research, a coliseum roof renovation, and “bridges for endangered squirrels.” “I refuse to believe that any person or state will spend $1.25 million to save 5 squirrels a year, but not 98 human beings. It can’t be true,” said Daglas. “That just  doesn’t make any sense.”

THE BAD BELLWETHER:   When asked “how many people would have to die” before she’d reverse her decision, Brewer offered a   curious response: “If people are so worried about the transplant patients then they should ask the federal government in Washington to send us more money.” This is a confusing reaction considering she openly vilifies the Affordable Care Act that would provide her with  100 percent of the funding to cover the health care law’s Medicaid expansion. Now, 32 more Republican governors have joined Brewer. In a letter to the White House last week, all the GOP governors lambasted the ACA’s rule requiring states to maintain Medicaid eligibility levels for federal funding as “unconscionable” and requested leeway to cut Medicaid enrollment, effectively “chopping millions of poor people when the weak economy makes Medicaid coverage critical.” Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (R) even flirted with opting out of Medicaid entirely, which would not only force states to scale back health care benefits and reimbursements to providers but would  leave “large numbers of low-income children, pregnant women, parents, people with disabilities, and seniors” without insurance. Indeed, only when Perry learned that he’d lose $15 billion in federal funding and leave  2.6 million Texans uninsured did he drop the delusional idea.

Tell Congress: Women Can’t Afford Social Security Benefit Cuts


National Women's Law Center
Tell Congress: Don’t Cut Our Social Security!
Your Senators need to hear from you that jeopardizing the well-being of women and families is no way to improve the nation’s bottom line.
Call 1-866-529-7630 today!

Can women and their families afford deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?

We don’t think so. But as the President’s Fiscal Commission meets this week, deep cuts to these and other vital programs for women and their families are on the table.

We need your help to make sure these proposals don’t stay on the table — starting with joining the National Call-In Day on Social Security.

Tell Congress: Don’t Cut Our Social Security! Call your Senators NOW at 1-866-529-7630.

  • After providing your zip code, you’ll be given a choice of which of your state’s Senators to be connected with first. Call both if you possibly can!
  • Tell the person who answers the phone: I am a constituent living in [your state]. I am calling to tell the Senator to say “NO!” to cuts in Social Security benefits. Social Security benefits are especially important to women — and women’s average benefits are just $12,000 per year. Women can’t afford Social Security benefit cuts.

Why are we so concerned? Commission Co-Chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles have proposed:

  • Cutting Social Security benefits for the vast majority of beneficiaries by raising the retirement age, lowering the cost of living adjustment, and changing the basic benefit formula.
  • Shifting more Medicare costs to beneficiaries and requiring low-income Medicaid beneficiaries to pay higher co-pays.
  • Cutting overall federal funding for domestic discretionary programs by about 20 percent, jeopardizing funding for child care, education, training, and other crucial investments.
  • Relying on spending cuts, far more than revenue increases, to reduce the deficit. While some tax expenditures would be curtailed, much of that revenue would be used to cut tax rates for the wealthiest Americans and corporations rather than to protect vital services or reduce the deficit.

Bottom line — these proposals would hurt women and their families. The reductions to Social Security would disproportionately hurt women, who depend more on income from Social Security than men do. And the changes to Medicare and Medicaid would place an extra burden on women, who are the majority of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and who already spend a higher percentage of their (already-lower) incomes on health care than men.

Your Senators need to hear from you that jeopardizing the well-being of women and families is no way to improve the nation’s bottom line. Call your Senators NOW at 1-866-529-7630.

This will be a long, hard fight and we are counting on you to stand up for women and their families.

Sincerely,

Joan Entmacher Joan Entmacher
Vice President, Family Economic Security
National Women’s Law Center

P.S. To find out more about the co-chairs’ Social Security benefit cuts, check out our blog.

Stop this extreme anti-choice bill


Change.org
Tell Congress to stop restricting the reproductive rights of low-income women.

Sign the Petition

A woman shouldn’t lose her ability to decide if it’s a good time to bring a child into the world just because she is poor – but it’s been happening in the United States for decades.

Unless we speak out, the law that makes this injustice possible could become permanent.

For the past 34 years, the Hyde Amendment has made it extremely difficult for poor and low-income women on Medicaid to finance abortion services and severely limited their right to reproductive healthcare. It has been used to ban the federal government from spending money on abortion with very few exceptions.

The result? More than a million American women have been denied the ability to make their own decisions about bringing a child into the world in the context of their own circumstances and those of their families.

And now, a bill called the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” is picking up steam in Congress with over 170 co-sponsors. It goes to a new extreme, and seeks to make Hyde permanent while making it even harder for women to find abortion coverage in the private sector.

This is a direct assault on the fundamental rights of poor women and their families. Please write your Members of Congress and tell them to oppose the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.”

The Hyde Amendment imposes severe financial hardship on poor women. The struggle to raise funds forces many women to delay obtaining services and have later abortions. They might have to forgo basic necessities for their families, or may be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.

Reproductive rights include a woman’s right to make fundamental decisions about her life and family, to access the reproductive health services necessary to protect her health, and to decide whether and when to have children. By restricting access to abortion, the Hyde Amendment violates these fundamental human rights for poor and low-income women in the United States.

Please urge your elected officials in Washington to stand up for the rights of poor and low-income women and reject the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” We cannot let the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions become permanent law.

Thanks for taking action,

– The Change.org Team

Medicaid enrollment spikes to 48M in weak economy…states are now cutting Medicaid to curb costs!


By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press Writer Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar, Associated Press Writer 1 hr 49 mins ago

WASHINGTON – A record number of Americans signed up for Medicaid last year, as the recession wiped out jobs and workplace health coverage.

A report released Thursday by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found that enrollment in the safety-net medical insurance program jumped to more than 48 million — a record 15.7 percent share of the U.S. population. With the economy barely improving, states are forecasting a 6 percent increase in the rolls next year, meaning another strain on their cash-depleted budgets.

The Medicaid numbers are the latest piece to emerge in a grim statistical picture of the recession’s toll. The ranks of the working-age poor climbed to the highest level since the 1960s last year, according to a recent Census report. Nearly 12 million households received food stamps, a record.

Rising Medicaid enrollment also underscores the growing role of the government in health care, a polarizing issue in this year’s midterm congressional elections after President Barack Obama and Democrats pushed through a massive overhaul of the nation’s health care system.

Since the start of the recession in December 2007, nearly 6 million people have signed up for Medicaid, according to Kaiser. That period includes the biggest 12-month increase since the program’s early days: 3.7 million new enrollees from December 2008 to December 2009.

“There seems to be no end in sight to the fiscal pressure on the Medicaid program,” said Vernon Smith, who co-authored the Kaiser report.

Starting in the fall of 2008, the federal government provided more than $100 billion in additional Medicaid funding to help states cover growing numbers of people in need.

The last of that money will run out in June of next year, and states will face a jump of 25 percent or more in their share of costs, although they are still likely to be financially strapped. If Republicans win control of Congress, they may find it difficult to turn down requests for more aid from the states.

With or without Obama’s overhaul, government is becoming the dominant player in health care. Federal, state and local government spending will overtake private sources in 2011, three years before the new law’s major coverage expansion, Medicare economists said in a recent report.

Medicaid is a federal-state partnership created with Medicare in 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson. It covers low-income families and many elderly in nursing homes, with Washington paying about 60 percent of the cost on average. Medicaid has also been assigned a major role under the new health care law, which expands the program to cover an estimated 18 million additional low-income adults starting in 2014.

For now, states are cutting Medicaid to try to curb costs.

Nearly every state — 48 in all — took some action to limit Medicaid spending this year, and most plan more cuts next year. Although they didn’t reduce eligibility, Kaiser found that states took steps to restrict the scope of coverage:

• A record 20 states placed restrictions on benefits, and 14 plan new restrictions next year. Arizona, California, Hawaii and Massachusetts eliminated some or all dental coverage. Other states limited medical imaging, therapies, supplies and personal care.

• Thirty-nine states cut or froze payments to hospitals, doctors and other service providers, and most plan another round next year. Medicaid payment rates are already so low that in many states it’s hard to find doctors who will accept the coverage. Yet 20 states lowered payments to doctors this year, and 12 plan to do so next year.

• Eighteen states placed limits on long-term care services, and 10 plan additional limits next year.

The recession officially ended in mid-2009, but the Kaiser study indicates its ill effects will take a while longer to wear off. Meanwhile, states will have to gear up for the major Medicaid expansion under the health care law.

“We’re on a teeter board,” said Carol Steckel, president of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, and head of Alabama’s program. “Every now and then that teeter board balances. But it’s going to be rare. There’s always something else.”

___

Online:

Kaiser Family Foundation: http://www.kff.org