Visiting with senior citizens on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. condemned the plan already passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that would convert the Medicaid funding for the states to block grants. Pallone told the residents of Madison Center nursing home in Matawan that the grants would be capped, resulting in funding reductions and diminishing care.
"This is a bad idea that would get worse year after year as health care costs and enrollment outpaces funding," Pallone said. "I am especially concerned about the impact on seniors who need long-term care, including nursing homes and home care. Because Medicare doesn't cover long-term care, Medicaid is the primary payer for seniors and the disabled in nursing homes and for seniors who receive healthcare services that allow them to remain in their own homes."
Nearly six million seniors receive long-term services from Medicaid, including 1.5 million nursing home residents.
Turning capped block grants over to the states would be especially risky because of the budget problems that face so many state governments and because of the lack of support for the Medicaid program in general by a new wave of conservative governors who would be tempted to divert the funding.
"This plan essentially sheds the Medicaid safety net and shifts the costs to the states and to patients," Pallone said. "If and when the states change eligibility standards, many current Medicaid recipients could be denied care."
The Republican budget plan would reduce Medicaid support by approximately $800 billion over the next decade, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. In addition, some reports estimate that the budget would leave up to 44 million low-income families, children and seniors uninsured.
New Jersey would experience a $26 million cut next year and the loss of more than $20 billion over the next 10 years.
Coverage for nursing home residents would be lost for many and nursing homes would also be forced to compromise the on the quality of care seniors receive at the end of their lives.
According to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, federal Medicaid funding would have fallen by 25 percent in most states and by as much as 40 percent in some states over the past 10 years if this program was in place.
In addition to the proposed drastic changes to Medicaid, the GOP also approved a plan to end Medicare as we know it by converting it into a voucher program.
"Neither of these plans do anything to reduce health care costs, they just shift the burden to others," Pallone said. "They do nothing to make either program work better, they put them on course to extinction."
The Republican budget would also repeal the planned Medicaid expansion that is a key part of the health care reform law. Their budget would reverse Medicaid's expansion, leaving 18 million people without access to the program. New Jersey would lose more than $13 billion over the next 10 years as a result.