Monday, December 29, 2008

It's getting colder out there, Part Two

On Friday, the Washington Post described how
[s]tates from Rhode Island to California are being forced to curtail Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, as they struggle to cope with the deteriorating economy. ...

Already, 19 states ... and the District of Columbia have lowered payments to hospitals and nursing homes, eliminated coverage for some treatments, and forced some recipients out of the insurance program completely.

Many are halting payments for health-care services not required by the federal government, such as physical therapy, eyeglasses, hearing aids and hospice care. A few states are requiring poor patients to chip in more toward their care. ...

[U]ncertainty over how much [federal] help may come, and when it might arrive, is prompting many states to make the biggest reductions to their Medicaid programs in years - and in some cases, ever.
Medicaid has real limitations: For one thing, contrary to common notion, being poor does not qualify you for assistance unless you fit a "designated eligibility group." The result is that even with the program, an estimated 35% of poor Americans (and 29% of the "near poor," those with incomes up to double poverty level) still have no health insurance of any sort. (See Figure 5 at this link to a report of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured) Nonetheless, it is the nations largest source of government health insurance, covering about 59 million Americans in 2007.

And now there are these cutbacks, with even more states expecting to make even deeper cuts in 2009, which are happening at a time of increasing unemployment (and attendant loss of job-related health insurance), which means even more people are going to need the help - and it may not be there.

I wonder if this is something else Mr. Flickinger thinks will be good news in the long run. After all, it will rationalize out all - well, at least some of - the redundant people. Because, you know, "If they'd rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population."

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