As most know, the March 1st “sequester” cut deadline came and went without much serious action by policymakers to avert the automatic cuts. This was not unexpected considering policymakers have been very far off on goals for a compromise and because the $85 billion in first year cuts will not necessarily take effect immediately. The real layoffs and consequences that might be felt by most community members will roll out slowly throughout the year, stalling the public outrage and pushing off the political pressure that might force an ultimate budget agreement.
It is important to clarify that while Medicaid cuts were not part of the sequester, potential changes to Medicaid are very much part of potential compromise that could be reached in the coming weeks and months. For that reason, it is important for all local families who rely in any way on New York Medicaid (or who expect to in the future) to understand how potential changes may alter their options.
Latest GOP Proposal
For example, many outlets reported this week on a new budget proposal from former Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan. As a Huffington Post article on the matter explained, the Ryan project is focused on balancing the budget with an eye-popping $4.6 trillion in cuts over the next ten years. Those cuts would come mostly from Medicare, Medicaid, and other social safety net programs–on top of repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
One of the proposals to save funds, for example, is to allow seniors to receive vouchers for health care coverage, instead of participating in the Medicare program. For Medicaid, it is said that nearly $757 billion would be saved by switching to a block grant program. Under the grant model, individual states would receive a specific chunk of funds that they could then use in any way they choose. This severs the federal government from providing support based on specific need for each individual resident. Right now, certain things are covered by the program, with the state and federal government generally splitting the costs of that support.
Proponents of this Medicaid method argued that it will allow states more flexibility and enhance efficiency. Opponents conversely suggest that this is just an obvious way to severely cut public support for the program that mostly helps middle and low income families. The end result, they argue, is that the most vulnerable community members will simply not receive the support and care they need.