TO: Editorial Page Editor
FROM: State Reps. Frank LaGrotta, D-Lawrence/Beaver/Butler, and Don Walko, D-Allegheny
RE: Op-Ed on Federal Cut to Medicaid
MEDIA CONTACT: Ben Turner, 717-787-7895, email@example.comPlease consider the following for publication on your editorial page.
An Unhealthy Cut That Really Hurts Pa.
by state Reps. Frank LaGrotta and Don Walko
“The moral test of a government is how it treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” — Hubert Humphrey
President Bush’s federal budget proposal, released on Feb. 7, reflects his priorities for the future of our country. His proposal would be particularly devastating for the 51 million Americans, including nearly 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, who receive health coverage through the federal-state Medicaid program.
The president wants to make at least $60 billion in cuts to Medicaid over 10 years. These proposed cuts show that he has made the wrong moral and economic choices – opting to balance the federal budget on the backs of state taxpayers and at the expense of the most vulnerable among us, especially children, seniors and people with disabilities.
The president’s proposed Medicaid cuts are shortsighted in several ways. First, Medicaid cuts are bad medicine for Pennsylvania’s economy. In 2005 alone, Pennsylvania expects to spend nearly $16.1 billion on Medicaid, with $8.6 billion of that coming from the federal government. This huge federal investment stimulates business activity and creates new jobs. Health care is a major employer in our state, partly because we have one of the highest percentages of senior citizens in the country.
If President Bush gets Congress to agree to his Medicaid cuts, enormous costs would be shifted to the states. But unlike the federal government, states are required to balance their budgets. So, if federal funding for Medicaid is cut, some very tough choices would have to be made in Harrisburg. These budget cuts would force all states, including ours, to make difficult decisions about whether to cut services and benefits, limit enrollment, and/or drop existing beneficiaries.
Gov. Rendell has made it a priority to avoid dropping people from Medicaid, partly because increasing the number of uninsured people further strains hospitals and forces them to turn elsewhere to fill gaps in their budgets. When that happens, hospitals turn to state and local taxpayers and to people who have health insurance, causing our premiums to rise even higher.
President Bush’s proposed cuts would also have a human cost – children, seniors and other Medicaid enrollees would lose important services or be cut from the program entirely. In Pennsylvania alone, Medicaid provides health coverage to 786,000 children, 206,000 seniors and 390,000 people with disabilities.
Because of federal Medicaid funds, our children are able to get their checkups and shots, allowing them to attend school and grow up healthy. And when our parents and grandparents get too old to care for themselves, Medicaid provides nursing home care, ensuring that our seniors are properly cared for. In Pennsylvania, Medicaid is the primary payer for 64 percent of our certified nursing facility residents.
Federal cuts or caps on Medicaid would be devastating to millions of Pennsylvanians and hurt our state’s economy. We must tell President Bush that cutting funds doesn’t make the problem go away. Seniors and children will still need decent health care, and it is our moral obligation to provide that care. Every Pennsylvanian should ask Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum, and our congressmen and congresswomen, to stand with us in this cause and to oppose cuts and caps to Medicaid.
State Rep. Frank LaGrotta represents the 10th Legislative District in Lawrence, Beaver and Butler counties. State Rep. Don Walko represents the 20th Legislative District in Allegheny County.