Friday, November 28, 2008

Republican Medicaid Solution: Some Will Die But Government Will Definitely Save Some Money

Cutting the cost of federal programs like Medicaid only shifts the cost to the individual. Who seriously believes this cost shifting solves the problem of health care or saves money? The Bush administration, that’s who. Behold the cold hard facts from the NY Times:
A new federal rule gives states sweeping authority to charge premiums and higher co-payments for doctors’ services, hospital care and prescription drugs provided to low-income people under Medicaid. The rule is expected to save money for the federal government and the states … But public health experts and even some federal officials predicted that many low-income people would delay or forgo care because of the higher charges. Many Medicaid recipients have chronic illnesses, use numerous prescription drugs and frequently visit doctors, so the burden of even modest co-payments can become substantial.

Are the experts right?
The administration acknowledged that “some individuals may choose to delay or forgo care rather than pay their cost-sharing obligations.”

Sounds like a “difficult but necessary” decision from the Republican administration. So some people lose, excluding fertilized eggs, and die a painful unnecessary death. Their grieving families will understand.
David P. Sloane, senior vice president of AARP, said, “Denying necessary care to people who are unable to pay is unconscionable,” as well as fiscally unwise.

But will it save money?
Public health experts said such delays could cause serious health problems, requiring more expensive care at a later date. But Jeff Nelligan, a spokesman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said: This rule gives states more tools to help slow spending growth, while maintaining needed coverage.

Here’s the breakdown: Medicaid recipients will pay more than $1.3 billion in co-payments over five years, and the federal government will save $1.4 billion, while states will save $1.1 billion. The savings would result not only from the collection of co-payments, but also from reduced use of services.

That’s right, the federal and state governments will save money from the reduction of service, the ones people will forgo or won’t be able to pay for. This is the Republican free market plan for health care. You’ve heard it before, “The co-payments will help Medicaid recipients become “more educated and efficient health care consumers,” the administration said.”

Oh sure, being forced to pay money you don’t have to become a more educated consumer about a system that changes the rules every year, in legaleze only a lawyer could decipher. What could go wrong?

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 13 million low-income people, about a fifth of Medicaid recipients, will face new or higher co-payments. Most of the savings result from “decreased use of services,” it said.

Needy people are desperate and frightened. So who holds all the power? Another example of Republicans preying on helplessness.

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