By Senator Dianne Feinstein
Originally published by The Hill
The latest Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act may have failed, but their long-term goal is clear: reduce coverage, remove consumer safeguards and, most importantly, gut Medicaid.
Despite widespread opposition, the constant in every iteration of the House and Senate healthcare bills has been draconian cuts to Medicaid that would cripple the program.
This disastrous plan, which we’re likely to see revived, would have absolutely devastating effects on children, particularly those with disabilities and extraordinary healthcare needs.
The Republican vision would pull the rug out from under families across the country who are enduring the most painful and challenging experiences of their lives.
Last week, I met with Max Page, a charming 12 year old from the Los Angeles area. Max, his parents and his younger brother spent two days on Capitol Hill pushing lawmakers to protect access to healthcare for all children.
In many ways, Max is a typical 12 year old with a particular love for baseball. However, Max has spent his entire life battling a congenital heart defect. He’s had two open heart surgeries, the first occurred when he was just three months old. All told he’s had 12 surgeries.
Max receives his care at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, a top-notch institution whose very survival is threatened by the Republican bill.
For 50 years, states and the federal government have been partners in administering Medicaid. The federal government pays a fixed share of all healthcare costs. Under the Republican vision however, the federal government would no longer be an equal partner.
The Republican bills all placed strict limits on federal payments and states would be required to pay all costs above those limits.
The Medicaid cuts in the Senate bill totaled $772 billion over the first 10 years, and $2.4 trillion more the decade after that. This means the Republican plan would slash 35 percent of Medicaid funding over the next two decades.
To compensate for these crushing federal cuts, states would have to cover enormous shortfalls. California, for example, would be required to pay $30 billion more per year by 2027 and $115 billion more per year by 2037. This would crush the state financially.
If California can’t come up with the funds necessary to plug the gaps from the Republican bill, millions could lose their Medicaid coverage. Millions more could lose access to critical care that’s currently covered by Medicaid.
Republicans claim that the most vulnerable Americans would be protected under their plan, but this just isn’t true.
California’s Medicaid director has said that no group currently covered by Medicaid—including children and those with disabilities—would be completely shielded from inevitable cuts.
One of the areas where the effects of these cuts would be visible is children’s hospitals, which treat hundreds of thousands of children nationwide.
The Children’s Hospital Association reports that, on average, 60 percent of patients at the nation’s 220 children’s hospitals are covered by Medicaid.
It would be impossible for these hospitals, which serve millions of patients and rely on Medicaid for a significant percent of their revenue, to maintain current service levels in the face of such drastic cuts. They would be forced to reduce programs, consolidate locations and even close their doors.
The effects of this blow to our healthcare system would ripple out and affect all children, not just those who rely on Medicaid.
That’s because children’s hospitals train specialists and conduct cutting-edge research that improves care and develops new treatments for all children.
The incredible strides we’ve made in treating rare childhood diseases would have been impossible without the clinical research that takes place at institutions exclusively focused on the care of children.
At Valley Children’s in Madera, where 75 percent of patients are covered by Medicaid, Dr. Todd Suntrapak said that gutting the program “threatens the very viability of pediatric healthcare in this country.”
If the Republican Senate succeeds in passing a bill that guts Medicaid, we risk losing the very character of our country. Will we be a compassionate nation that takes care of its citizens during their times of need? Will we provide care to the most vulnerable Americans? Or will we choose a different path?
Dr. Michael Anderson, CEO of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital told me during a visit last week that there’s no question that “children will suffer or die” if Medicaid cuts go through.
Republicans have showed their cards—the end-goal is to gut the Medicaid program. We must remain vigilant to protect healthcare for all children.
Feinstein is the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.