Medicaid Is Not A Piggy Bank For Congress

Medicaid keeps people in their homes and supports an invaluable workforce. Here we are, yet again, with Medicaid on the chopping block.

Hundreds of 1199 SEIU members march to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office on March 29, 2023, to protest proposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. (Lev Radin / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said last week that it would be a “red line” for House GOP members to vote on a package that did not include major cuts to Medicaid. What he is really redlining is a daughter caring for her mother who relies on home and community-based services to stay in a community near her. Or a sister whose disabled brother relies on Medicaid to continue working and thriving at his job. Or the mother who gets essential healthcare for her child through Medicaid.

The burdensome and bureaucratic work requirements on the table are just the latest attempt to cut Medicaid to pay the bills with no regard for the people who will be impacted. Disability, aging and care worker advocates have a clear message for Congress: Medicaid is not your piggy bank.

While the headlines are flooded with coverage of looming default and fierce negotiations, there isn’t meaningful coverage of what is at stake. Medicaid is so much more than the talking points or media coverage on the debt ceiling.

  • Medicaid is a state and federal partnership that funds healthcare for more than 88 million Americans, including 54 million older adults, children and disabled people. It also does so much more than that.

  • Medicaid is the main funder for long-term care for the 5.5 million older adults and disabled people who rely on its services and support. Many people don’t know Medicare’s long-term care benefit isn’t comprehensive, so unless you’ve saved hundreds of thousands of dollars to be able to stay in your home, Medicaid is people’s lifeline. Medicaid funds homecare for older adults to age in place, and home and community-based services so that disabled people, including children, can live independent lives while staying in their homes and communities.

  • Medicaid is a job creator—doing everything from funding job coaching services for disabled people, to finding and maintaining employment, to being the primary employer for long term care, and paying the wages of 4.7 million direct care workers and much more. It is important to note that direct care workers are going through an extreme workforce crisis, despite the growing need. Medicaid cuts would intensify this crisis and impact employment status for many direct care workers. 

  • Medicaid is popular with voters. Polling at Caring Across Generations showed that 72% of voters across the political spectrum view Medicaid favorably and 60% of voters personally know someone benefiting from Medicaid.

  • Medicaid is in need of investment—not cuts. For Medicaid-funded home and community-based services (HCBS), there are over 650,000 people on waiting lists. That isn’t taking into account people who don’t know that a waiting list exists in their state, but are still in need of services.          

And here we are, yet again, with Medicaid on the chopping block.

We’ve lived this reality before: In 2017, there were too many attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and decimate Medicaid—and this time they are proposing these cuts just to pay their bills with zero thought for the human impact in their districts.

We cannot be distracted by drawn out speeches about the debt ceiling and default. This is a shameful assault on a program that makes our country better, keeps people in their homes and supports an invaluable workforce. The members of Congress behind this know it too—they know that disabled people, older adults, care workers and family caregivers would suffer if Medicaid was cut, or work requirements were enforced.

Medicaid is not a piggy bank for Congress. It is so much more to the people of this country who rely on it to live a life of their choosing. We need our elected officials to fight for us and support their constituents who rely on Medicaid.

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