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Saving Medicaid ­– An urgent SOS

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 6/27/2017, 11 a.m.
This is an urgent SOS. Right now, Republican senators are working behind closed doors on their own version of the ...

By investing in child well-being now, our nation and economy will recoup huge benefits later. Medicaid is far more efficient and cost-effective than private insurance for children, and research comparing children eligible for Medicaid during childhood to their non-eligible peers found Medicaid-eligible children were more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, make greater contributions as adult taxpayers and live longer than those without coverage.

Yet despite more than 50 years of progress, improvements and success, the Senate is on the verge of recklessly crafting a bill to repeal and replace the ACA and end Medicaid as we know it. Like in the terrible AHCA bill in the House, Senate Republicans want to convert Medicaid to a “per capita cap,” which means changing Medicaid’s financing structure from a federal guarantee of coverage for all medically necessary services to an annual per person federal payment that does not increase regardless of the extent of use or cost. Please don’t let this misleading jargon fool you – this is emasculation of health coverage for up to 37 million children and a cut cloaked in confusion so people can’t see the magnitude of the damage it will do. For example, it claims to give states “more flexibility” but in reality will force states to increase their own spending dramatically, make deep cuts in benefits or, more likely, both. Make no mistake: There is no way the Senate can design a Medicaid “per capita cap” or block grant that won’t harm low-income children and children with disabilities. Adults with disabilities, seniors and other vulnerable Americans would be hurt too. Entire families will be affected. Simply put: Medicaid saves lives. And right now, Medicaid’s life hangs in the balance propelled by greed, callousness and political opportunism. These cuts in Medicaid are being used to pay for tax cuts for the very wealthy. Children’s crucial health needs should not be a political plaything for any party at any time.

The time for you to tell your senators that you will not stand for a bill being drafted in secret to end Medicaid as we know it is right now. The flood of phone calls generated by upset constituents when the House was first considering the AHCA must be repeated and increased dramatically, and we urgently need you to flood the stealthy Senate with phone calls right now and flush them out of their hiding place. Tell your Senators not to let children move backwards and undermine the critical health care safety net. Urge your senators specifically to reject any structural changes or cuts to Medicaid. America’s future depends on the health of our young, and Medicaid works for children. In fact, it works for multiple generations. We must not turn back the clock. Call, tweet, visit and organize right now to urge your Senators to protect Medicaid for America’s children and families and #KeepKidsCovered.

Marian Wright Edelman is the president of the Children’s Defense Fund. For more information, go to http://www.childrensdefense.org.