I Vote 4 Health Care: Medicaid block grants

It can be easy, and even reflexive, to become disconnected and cynical toward politics in a 24-hour news cycle. Nonetheless, it’s as important as ever to stay informed and to make intentional choices when you go to the polls. Whether you consider yourself a “single issue voter” or not, health care fits into most single issues that move the electorate. At the crux of workers’ rights, income inequality, reproductive health, gun safety, the impending climate crisis, supporting veterans, and several other issues is access to quality and affordable health care. This series, titled I Vote 4 Health Care, will explore what’s at stake when you cast your vote this year.

By Jackie Nappo

Medicaid is one of the most important services that is in jeopardy as we move toward the 2020 elections. The Trump Administration recently announced plans to offer block grants, or fixed spending, to states in exchange for more flexibility in running the program.

For some context, Medicaid is currently an “open ended entitlement” which means that anybody who qualifies for Medicaid can access its full range of services, and the amount spent by the federal government responds to how many people qualify, rather than a pre-set spending cap.

In Connecticut alone, about one in every five residents is on Medicaid, making it one of the most utilized and important social services offered in this state. The numbers are mirrored on a national level, where again close to 20 percent of Americans access health care through Medicaid.

States that accept the block grants will have the opportunity to make new cuts to the program, such as limiting prescription drug coverage and increasing out of pocket costs for enrollees.

Attacks to Medicaid are certainly not new. The program offers support to people at, below, or slightly above the poverty line so they can gain access to life-saving care. Any cuts or caps to spending can do serious damage, with people as the collateral.

To keep it simple, Medicaid block granting is a bad idea. It takes money away from a life saving program in exchange for the opportunity to make the program worse. In Connecticut, we give Medicaid the reverence it deserves, and advocates are even trying to expand eligibility standards so that more residents can reap the benefits of the program.

Your vote in November, at the local, state, and national level, will have a direct impact on the future of Medicaid. Our legislators are the ones who made the decision not to accept the block grant, and they’re the people who will be in the room in the future when this effort comes back around either to further block federal Medicaid spending or to change it in our state.

The health of one fifth of our population is at stake here. One out of every five people is enough that if you aren’t a Medicaid beneficiary, you certainly know and love people who are currently on Medicaid, were once on Medicaid, or will use it in the future. Keep all of those people in mind while you’re deciding for whom to cast your ballot.