Danielle Garrett, Healthy Policy Analyst, National Women's Law Center
The deadline for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (The Super-Committee) to reach an agreement is fast approaching. The Committee is undoubtedly debating cuts to many programs that provide vital services to millions of Americans, including Medicaid. In these last days leading up to the Committee deadline, we must let Congress know that an agreement that includes Medicaid cuts could be devastating to women and families.
It's easy to view Medicare as a program that helps your parents or grandparents and Medicaid as a program only for the poorest of the poor - a program that doesn't affect you or anyone you know. But you would be surprised how many people, including people you probably know, are helped by the Medicaid program. Medicaid helps pay for your widowed grandma's nursing home and other long-term care expenses, doctor visits for your aunt who can't work because of her MS, and pediatrician visits for your neighbor's kids. Medicaid pays for prenatal care for pregnant women and family planning services to millions of men and women across the country. Americans of all ages, races, and life circumstances rely on the program to get the health care they need.
The program covers 6 million seniors who rely on it to help them pay for their Medicare premiums and long terms care needs, among other important health services. The program is especially important to elderly women (who make up 70% of senior Medicaid beneficiaries), since they have lower average incomes, tend to live longer than their male counterparts, and are more dependent on long term care. For many of these women, Medicare alone cannot meet their health care needs and Medicaid plays an indispensable role in ensuring their health and economic security.
Medicaid also covers almost 9 million Americans with disabilities who rely on the program for basic health care services and long term care services and supports such as home health aides, medical devices and prescriptions. Medicaid is an especially critical source of care for women with disabilities. In fact, half of all adult women with disabilities receive health coverage through Medicaid. Again, even if some of these women have Medicare, they still need Medicaid to help with cost sharing and coverage of services that Medicare does not cover.
Women also comprise the vast majority of non-elderly adults on Medicaid, most of whom are mothers struggling to raise their children in tough economic times. Medicaid also helps the children of these mothers. The program covers 1 out of every 4 American children, providing them with the care they need to grow up healthy.
The bottom line is this: Medicaid provides necessary medical services to a diverse group of beneficiaries and is an especially important source of health care for women. Cuts to Medicaid would therefore be devastating to the physical and financial health of women and families. We need your help to make sure these proposals don't become a reality.