Cuts in Medicaid Won’t Be Popular
It is becoming increasingly clear that the more people in North Carolina find out what state lawmakers did this year in Raleigh, the less they like it.
That’s true across the state, and not just among the folks on public assistance that House Speaker Thom Tillis wants to divide and conquer.
People are not wild about seeing the teacher assistant in their second-grader’s class fired or finding out that their college-age daughter may not graduate on time because so many classes have been cut at the campus of the UNC system she attends.
Far fewer people have heard of the deep cuts the General Assembly made in funding for many other vital programs that directly affect hundreds of thousands of families.
Medicaid might be the most telling example. I brought up the Medicaid cuts at a panel discussion at this week’s North Carolina Conference on Aging in Charlotte.
That’s not a mistake. It was Medicaid, not Medicare — which you normally associate with health care for seniors. Medicaid is vitally important to them too. It is not just a program for the poor. Most of its recipients are children, people with disabilities and senior citizens.
A recent report from the N.C. Budget and Tax Center points out that 27 percent of Medicaid enrollees are from middle-class households, including tens of thousands of nursing home residents. And it is a good thing Medicaid is there to help.
The report says that the average annual cost of nursing home care for seniors is $73,000, while the median income of a family of four in North Carolina is just over $43,000.
You might think that a program that helps take care of so many of the state’s senior citizens, not to mention children and people with disabilities, would be off-limits for deep cuts in the middle of a recession when families are even less likely to have the resources to pay for nursing home care.
You would be wrong when it comes to this General Assembly. Lawmakers voted to slash more than $700 million from Medicaid funding over the next two years.
That means a total reduction of Medicaid funding in the state of $2 billion when you take into account the two-to-one federal match for every state dollar spent.
The budget passed this summer also counts on some Medicaid savings that virtually no one believes are realistic.
When it becomes obvious that the savings won’t materialize, state officials will be forced to reduce reimbursements to doctors and nursing homes and reduce services that many seniors need.
The Medicaid cuts will cost the state jobs too, thousands of them, since the vast majority of the money pays for services that are provided by health care workers.
None of that is speculation. It is all there in the numbers. But not even everybody at the Conference on Aging was aware of the extent of the Medicaid cuts.
That’s what legislative leaders are counting on. They know their political survival depends on people not learning the truth about what they really did this summer.
More like this story