Originally Published in:
The Westerly Sun
Baby Jayden’s kidneys started failing the day he was born; by the time he was four months old, doctors had removed both of them. Daily dialysis kept him alive until a transplant was possible.
Today, three years later, Jayden is thriving. And it’s because of Medicaid.
Jayden’s mom works full-time as a medical interpreter. His dad works in construction. Like tens of thousands of their fellow Rhode Islanders, Jayden’s parents work for employers who don’t offer health insurance. And there’s no way they can afford it on their own. Without the state’s RIte Care program, Jayden’s family would have gone broke trying to save his life.
Just last month, a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis revealed 76 percent of Rhode Island’s adult and child Medicaid enrollees are in families in which at least one person is employed. Put simply: Rhode Island works because of Medicaid.
Unfortunately, the United States Senate has put our Medicaid program at risk with the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). The BCRA moves America’s health care system and our entire economy in a dangerous and harmful direction. The Senate bill will phase out Medicaid coverage entirely for millions of Americans and threatens the viability of the Medicaid system as a whole through underfunded per capita allotments. The financial impact to Rhode Island would be devastating and would affect many non-health care programs like school funding and tax policy.
- The Commonwealth Fund’s analysis of the impact of the AHCA (the House version of the BRCA) calculates long-term damage to the Rhode Island economy in the form of 4,600 lost jobs, a loss of roughly $700M in gross state product, and $1.1 billion in lost business output.
- Similarly, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates Rhode Island could ultimately lose $994 million in federal health care dollars if the Senate moves forward with the BRCA.
- Medicaid provides coverage for more than 300,000 Rhode Islanders, including every child in our state’s foster care system, 60 percent of people living in nursing homes, and 50 percent of people with disabilities. The BCRA suffocates Medicaid and creates a situation in which the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders lose access to health care.
- Rhode Island is a “Medicaid Expansion” state, meaning federal money subsidizes the health insurance premium payments for 75,000 working Rhode Islanders. The BRCA has the power to remove those subsidies, denying working Rhode Islanders the ability to afford health insurance.
Nationwide, almost 60 percent of adults with Medicaid coverage are employed. Nearly half of them work for small businesses, and Medicaid is essential for these hardworking Americans to keep their jobs. Medicaid helps millions of people across the country manage their chronic illnesses so they focus on work. Nearly two-thirds of older and disabled Americans rely on Medicaid to help pay for nursing homes and care, lifting a burden off family members – so they, too, can stay employed.
For nearly a quarter of a century, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island has worked closely with the state’s Medicaid program, connecting people to high-quality, cost-effective health care. We have seen firsthand Medicaid’s ability to empower our neighbors. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, also called “Obamacare”, the uninsured rate among working Rhode Islanders has plummeted by 49 percent. We do not want the BRCA to undo our state’s success.
Neighborhood is proud to support a national campaign, launched this summer, called “Medicaid is US”. This campaign focuses on Medicaid’s impact creating jobs and economic well-being. At every point in our lives, Medicaid is there to ensure that we and our loved ones have the health security we need to maintain economic security. Medicaid belongs to everyone and it benefits everyone. In this debate, there is no us and them. There is only us.
Peter Marino is President & CEO of Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island.