For more than 50 years, Medicaid has played a crucial role in the American health insurance landscape. In Minnesota, this state-federal partnership funds Medical Assistance and ensures that a diverse group of our neighbors can afford health care when they need it. The American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed by Republicans in the House of Representatives, would undercut all of that, placing the health of infants, seniors, people with disabilities, parents, low-income workers, and people who simply can’t afford private insurance, at risk.
Thanks to Medicaid, many of the most vulnerable Minnesotans have access to affordable, high-quality health insurance — and, more importantly, access to health care when they need it. That includes:
- Newborns. In 2014, more than 40 percent of the babies born in Minnesota had their births covered by Medicaid.
- Older Minnesotans. When Medicare or other insurance options fail to cover the needs of our elders, Medicaid often steps up to the plate. That’s because Medicaid covers essentials that Medicare doesn’t, like long-term nursing home care and hearing aids. Though less than 6 percent of Medical Assistance enrollees are 65 or older, about 17 percent of the money spent on Medical Assistance goes to their care.
- Minnesotans with disabilities or blindness. About 12 percent of Minnesota’s Medicaid enrollees live with a disability or blindness, and 41 percent of Medical Assistance’s budget goes toward their care.
- Families with children. Parents and their children represent 63 percent of enrollees in Medicaid (though their care makes up just 26 percent of the Medical Assistance budget). One in three Minnesota children are covered through Medicaid.
- Working Minnesotans. Lots of employers pay low wages and don’t offer affordable insurance to their employees. Of the non-elderly Minnesotans covered by Medicaid, 66 percent live in a family with at least one person working full time and another 17 percent are living in a family with at least one person working part time. Nationally, of the small share of unemployed, able-bodied adults covered by Medicaid, about three-quarters are caretakers for a family member.
If the AHCA becomes the law of the land, the federal government would cut $800 billion from Medicaid over the next decade. Federal policymakers would be backing out of a decades-old promise to work with states to ensure that financially and physically vulnerable people can still afford health care. These Medicaid cuts don’t make make America’s health care system stronger, but they do pay for the AHCA’s large and unnecessary tax breaks that primarily benefit high-income Americans and insurance and medical device companies.
Policymakers should refocus their efforts on bringing down the price of health insurance (and health care) for the millions of Americans who worry about paying their bills every month. Posing an existential threat to a decades-old partnership between the states and the federal government that secures the health of newborns and their great-grandparents alike isn’t the way to do it.