As a nation, our conversations often revolve around “family values.” Yet when it comes to showing that we truly value families, politicians sometimes fall short.
At present, Congress is deliberating how best to cut the deficit – and one of our most family-friendly programs may be on the chopping block as the so-called supercommittee searches for cuts. But there’s no question about it: if Medicaid funding is cut, America’s women and families will suffer.
Currently Medicaid pays for 48 percent of all births in the United States, and 64 percent of births resulting from unintended pregnancies. One in four children is insured through Medicaid. The program plays a significant role in improving maternal health and reducing infant mortality, low birth weight babies, and avoidable birth defects. It is the single largest source of public funds for family planning services and provides essential reproductive health services. And it is a vital source of primary and preventive care, covering doctor and hospital visits, cancer screenings, access to prescription drugs, and other services that help keep women healthy.
In short: Medicaid provides critical health care for millions of lower income women who would otherwise be uninsured and go without the care they need.
Reduced federal funding could force states to cut already-low reimbursement rates to providers, which will likely cause some providers to withdraw from the program or limit the number of Medicaid patients they see. It would also force states to impose deeper cuts that restrict eligibility or reduce Medicaid services. This means dramatically higher out-of-pocket costs for health care for those who need help the most. In practice, it would mean denying women and children care they urgently need.
In this recession, millions depend on Medicaid family planning services to avoid unintended pregnancies. They also depend on Medicaid for the care they need to have healthy babies. Already, maternal mortality rates in the United States are among the highest in any industrialized nation. At a time when women and families are struggling to make ends meet, any cut to the Medicaid program would have serious – and potentially catastrophic – implications for millions of women and children.