The Senate plans to take up a House-passed budget for 2012 that would do away with Medicare and Medicaid as they are known today and give $1 trillion in new tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and profitable corporations. Sen. Bernie Sanders joined a press conference in the Capitol on Tuesday that focused on Medicaid. He called the idea of slashing health care coverage "a death sentence for God knows how many thousands of Americans."
The House-passed budget would dramatically restructure Medicaid by converting it to a block grant. It also would sharply cut the program's funding. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Republican budget proposal would cut current federal funding levels by one-third by 2022. It would be half of what it is today as of 2030.
At the press conference, Sanders cited a Harvard University study in 2009 that found 45,000 Americans die each year because they don't get to a doctor or hospital on time because they lack health insurance coverage. Slashing Medicaid would make matters worse at a time when Medicaid is the only way tens of millions of low-income children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled get access to the basic healthcare they need.
Medicaid is critical to millions of pregnant women across the country. Medicaid covers 42 percent of births nationally, and in 2009, covered 44 percent of the births in Vermont. Without this coverage and its cost-sharing protections, women who have low incomes would delay or forego the care that is vital to ensuring a healthy pregnancy and reducing costly complications like pre-term births.
Medicaid also is a lifeline to elderly and disabled Americans and their families. Many individuals with modest incomes exhaust all of their own resources before turning to Medicaid as a last resort to help meet their long-term care needs. For elderly and disabled Americans who are poor to begin with, Medicaid is the only option. Long-term care services provided to older adults and people with disabilities account for two-thirds of all Medicaid spending, and Medicaid pays for about 62 percent of long-term care in the nation.