By Elizabeth Krauss
While many view Medicaid to be simply an entitlement program and a burden on taxpayer resources, for others it means having a life.
Medicaid funds make possible vital, life-transforming supports and services for people with disabilities and the elderly. Medicaid provides the means for the elderly and those with disabilities to enjoy life in the community where they hold jobs and even pay taxes. And now Medicaid funding for these services is on the chopping block.
For Pat Head and her family of Columbia, Medicaid means health insurance for her son, Ryan. Ryan is a person with developmental disabilities. Ryan attends a sheltered workshop which helps with his socialization, job skills and recreation,” Head said. “He is also on a waiting list for residential services which are funded by Medicaid. Without these services and Medicaid health insurance, we would be hard pressed to meet his needs.
“I can’t imagine how a family with a medically fragile child who depends on Medicaid for health care would manage,” Head added.
In Washington, members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (Super Committee), which includes Representative Jim Clyburn, are considering dramatic cuts to the federal budget and will submit their recommendations by November 23. Medicaid funding is a target. Following the November 23 proposal, Congress must vote by December 23 on whether to implement the Super Committee’s recommendations. The proposed cuts to Medicaid funding for our most vulnerable citizens threatens the very lifeline that ensures them health, safety and a fulfilling life.
Families USA recently released a study which demonstrated the impact a five percent Medicaid funding cut would have on state economies. A key finding showed such a cut would mean the 50 states and the District of Columbia would lose a total of $13.75 billion needed to support health care for vulnerable residents.
In South Carolina, as of June 30, there were 2,566 consumers on the waiting list for Intellectual Disability/Related Disabilities Waiver and 445 awaiting the Head and Spinal Cord Injury Waiver. There were also 1,264 individuals awaiting a day support service. During fiscal year 2010-2011, the SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs served approximately 32,000 eligible persons with intellectual disabilities and related disabilities, autism, head injury and spinal cord injury.
For every Medicaid dollar spent, there is a person and a story that goes with it. We must challenge our elected leaders to respond not to the “prize” of billions cut from a budget, but to the human stories we know all too well. It is morally incumbent upon America to protect its young, its sick and needy, its fragile and most vulnerable citizens. For them, Medicaid means having a life.
Elizabeth Krauss is Chairperson, SC Human Services Providers Executive Director of the Georgetown County Board of Disabilities and Special Needs Member of the American Network of Community Options and Resources.