By Beth Sullivan, CIN, CAC, SHIP Counselor
We all have deep feelings about natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and public health crises like HIV/AIDS epidemic. We all remember where we were when the Towers fell in New York City.
One thing these tragedies have in common is that, when they occurred, Medicaid stepped in to help right away. How and what does Medicaid have to do with it? As with everything else, it's about the money. The way Medicaid works now is that the federal government will match the money the state spends on people with Medicaid without any limits. This open-ended funding allows Medicaid to respond quickly to public health crises and major disasters. There is no waiting for Congress to debate which Federal agency to turn to. During Hurricane Katrina, the state of Louisiana placed Medicaid workers at FEMA shelters to help people enroll for coverage. These were people displaced by the flood waters and many spend time in contaminated areas.
Now, imagine if the funding changes to block grants as proposed in the new American Health Care Act. The states will have a limited amount of money from the Federal Government they can use to help. Under the block grant method, if Louisiana had already received its money before the hurricane hit, the money would not have been available quickly to help the people who needed help now.
Using the current funding method, $670 million dollars was spent on health care for 350,000 low income New Yorkers over a 4 month period. This was accomplished without diverting emergency funding sources needed for the clean up and debris removal and without waiting for congressional action.
I have head it said that in times of crises, our country is at its best. We pull together to help our neighbors. Will we be able to do that if the funding for Medicaid changes to block grants?