The Human Cost of Medicaid Cuts

Article excerpt

As a family physician in inner-city St. Louis, I see daily the important role Medicaid plays in the lives of children, parents and elders who are poor. The present Republican congressional leadership is now driving to slash this program to balance the budget. It is critical that we understand the plan and its consequences.

Congress plans to cut Medicaid funding by an average of $26 billion a year, a 30 percent reduction in this program. At the same time, Congress plans to increase military spending by about $8 billion next year, to a total of $265 billion. We spend more each year on our military than the 10 next highest spending nations combined. Far more than anything else, it has been military spending that has created our national debt. Congress could reduce military spending by $18 billion (7 percent) instead of cutting Medicaid and achieve the same deficit reduction.

Slashing Medicaid while inflating an already huge military budget is the wrong course for us to take. Here are four reasons why.

We don't gain from our tax dollars spent. When we spend a billion dollars on a bomber, all we end up with is one more implement of human destruction. When we spend a billion on prenatal care or the health of children, we have (1) saved more dollars by preventing higher crisis-care expenditures and (2) invested in the development of creative, productive persons. Either way the money is infused into the economy.

Crippling Medicaid will destabilize an already precarious health-care finance mess. In California in the 1980s Medicaid was cut by half of what Congress plans now. The many who were forced off Medicaid lost primary health care, got sicker and sent unreimbursed emergency-care expenses through the roof, forcing widespread hospital closings. …