Affordable Care Act, Donald Trump — December 26, 2016

The GOP War on Seniors starts with defending Medicaid as we know it

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Dems need to pick a fight, and it must start with Tom Price’s confirmation hearing

In a must-read New York Times‘ op-ed “The Quiet War on Medicaid,” Ann Arbor-native and Clinton/Obama administration veteran Gene Sperling sounds a warning that needs to be blasted out at high volumes at all hours.

Republicans are definitely coming for Medicaid. And if they’re aren’t stopped ,we could end up with 14 to 21 million losing coverage and tens of millions of families struggling to find nursing home care for their elderly and disabled family members.

Sperling’s notes that Trump could easily skip the highly unpopular battle to privatize Medicare and focus on gutting Medicaid and turning the funding over to the states in the form of block grants.  In fact, Trump promised has promised to turn Medicaid over to the states, even as he vowed to preserve Medicare and Social Security.

“Without an intense focus by progressives on the widespread benefits of Medicaid and its efficiency, it will be too easy for Mr. Trump to market the false notion that Medicaid is a bloated, wasteful program and that such financing caps are means simply to give states more flexibility while ‘slowing growth,'” he writes.

Medicaid is an American treasure and its expansion, funded mostly by taxes on the rich, has been one of the most successful federal government efforts to fight inequality in generations.

“Medicaid provides more comprehensive benefits than private insurance at significantly lower out-of-pocket cost to beneficiaries, but its lower payment rates to health care providers and lower administrative costs make the program very efficient,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes. “It costs Medicaid much less than private insurance to cover people of similar health status.”

It’s also a much tastier target for conservatives because it’s not a universal benefit. Its services focus on the most vulnerable Americans who, by definition, have the least economic and political power.

“Sweeping cuts to Medicaid would hurt tens of millions of low-income and middle-income families who had a family member with a disability or were in need of nursing home care,” Sperling writes. “About 60 percent of the costs of traditional Medicaid come from providing nursing home care and other types of care for the elderly and those with disabilities.”

Long-term care is already a crisis in America and if Medicaid funding is dramatically cut, we will see the Americans most in need of nursing home care forced into abject destitute or the streets. Both Speaker Ryan and Tom Price, Trump’s pick to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, have both called for huge cuts to Medicaid as part of block granting.

Because we think of it as primarily a program for the poor, few middle class families recognize how many of their parents or their parents’ peers are dependent on Medicaid.  It’s also a crucial backstop for average American families faced with overwhelming health problems.

Sperling writes, “Among the Medicaid programs at greatest risk would be those optional state programs that seek to help middle-income families who become ‘medically needy’ because of the costs of having a child with a serious disability like autism or Down syndrome.”

So if you’re looking for the guys who say we’re a Christian nation, they’re busy trying to uninsure 30 million of our neediest citizens… while plotting what could be the largest tax breaks for the rich and corporations in American history.

Defending Medicaid as we know it — and making it a key aspect of Tom Price’s confirmation hearing — is crucial because it prevents Trump getting credit if he backs away from Ryan’s Medicare-gutting plans. It also clearly establishes that Trump is already going after a key group that supported him this election — seniors.

So call the GOP’s attempt to gut Medicaid what it is — the beginning of the GOP’s War on Seniors.

Because if they can pull this off without paying a huge price, you know what they’re coming for next.

UPDATE: According to Jason Zengerle at New York Magazine, Price is likely to be the Trump confirmation pick that Democrats oppose most:

Senate Democrats appear to be unanimous in their opposition to Tom Price, Trump’s choice for Health and Human Services secretary, and they hope to raise such a ruckus about Medicare during Price’s hearings that at least three Republicans decide to vote against Price, too, thus handing Democrats their first scalp of the Trump era.

[Image by Gage Skidmore | Flickr]

 

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