Medicaid Rally Tuesday, April 21, 2009
04/21/2009 - 6:00am
Julie Reiskin's Speech from the Medicaid Rally Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Cutting $58 million out of the Medicaid budget is a slippery slope, one that we will not tolerate. It is easy to say “just cut provider rates” not cutting eligibility. It is easy to delude ourselves into thinking that it will not really hurt anyone. It will hurt people. Worst of all, it will not save money. Cuts in one area will increase costs in other areas—we know this from experience. Our equipment providers have already taken a 9% cut in Medicare, and half of them have gone out of business. They cannot take another 4%. Yes, some costs sound big--$10,000 for a seating system, $2500 for a lift—but the costs without these services are gigantic—a half million for the pressure sore from not having that seating system, $18,000 for just the first week in the hospital to fix the fracture from the fall that happened because we did not buy the right lift.
We already cannot find primary care doctors. Cutting their miniscule rates will drive even more of us to the ER and to specialists.
We cannot reduce utilization any further. Any more limits on services will seriously endanger people—we are already doing with as little as possible. The restrictions from the last recession have never been lifted.
Many suggestions that we made during the last recession and have kept making have yet to be implemented. Even if HCPF were to implement every possible efficiency perfectly and immediately—it will not save $58 million this year. Medicaid cannot sustain a hit that large.
The disability community has always been willing to do our share—during the last recession we voluntarily gave up services, few of which were restored during the good times. We even proposed a modest client fee—a couple dollars a month because even though we are still the poorest group in the country we know that if these cuts are allowed to go forward that our lives are in danger. The people we rely on are already the lowest paid workers doing the most difficult work. They are the people in our homes, with access to our bank accounts, social security numbers, medications, and more. They are the ones doing the work no one else will do—dealing with bodily fluids, lifting, and more. We need them every day to survive. When their pay is cut their lives fall apart, they cannot fix their car, they lose their homes, have their lights cut off. How can they safely take care of us and themselves under such circumstances?
Yes, there is a recession and we all need to have a part in the solution. But it cannot be a final solution. The solution must not hold harmless the largest corporations and special interests leaving the disabled, poor, and minority communities in the dust to fight about the crumbs.
We can no longer tolerate the culture of scarcity, the attitude of hopelessness and belief that we have no other choices. There are always choices. We cannot let history repeat itself. We have learned time and time again that there is only so much air in this balloon we call Medicaid. We can squeeze it in one area and it will come out in another—or it will simply explode.