Massachusetts’ Medicaid program enjoyed success, at least initially. Boston (.com) reported that the state’s Medicaid program enrolled about 250,000 new members since mid-2006. What’s more is that the success of Massachusetts Medicaid led to the lowest rate of uninsured individuals in the entire U.S. That was back in 2006: Since the recession started in 2008, state budgets across the nation have struggled to remain viable and stay out of the red. For Massachusetts, part of its budget problem may stem from statistics which show increasing Medicaid costs.
Gary Gottlieb, president of Partners HealthCare, noted in an interview that doctors who are willing to treat Medicaid patients have seen reimbursement rates cut. With Medicaid costs climbing, there is an increased “burden on the commercial industry.”
State Medicaid budget cuts could figuratively pronounce a death sentence to some Americans. In a tragic story out of Arizona, written by Elizabeth Schulte from SocialistWorker.org, on the very same day, a father of six discovered that he was matched up with a long awaited bone marrow donor, but due to a change in State Medicaid coverage rules, the operation was not affordable. The Arizona man was offered money for the operation from an anonymous donor, but by the time the State had denied him and the donor came forward, he died.
According to a transplant specialist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine (speaking to the Times), “[t]he most difficult discussions are those that involve patients who had been on the donor list for a year or more and now we have to tell them they’re not on the list anymore…” To make matters worse, Medicaid budget cuts won’t solve the budget crisis alone, at least in Arizona. According to the New York Times, Arizona has nearly a $2.6 billion shortfall, and the transplant cuts would only alleviate $800,000 of that debt amount in the current fiscal year.
With the examples detailed above of Massachusetts’ and Arizona’s Medicaid woes, we can speculate that for some states, at least two conditions exist: First, we know that more people need Medicaid assistance now than before the “Great Recession.” We also know that some states are balancing their budgets by limiting what Medicaid will cover, including lifesaving operations, even where a donor exists! Whether legislators find other areas to cut wasteful spending in lieu of important Medicaid benefits will be an important focal point moving forward.
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