To cut federal spending and balance the budget, many voices — particularly in the Republican Party — are calling for deep cuts in entitlement programs, including Medicaid, the government health care program for low-income Americans and their families. The potential fallout could be enormous, especially for the African-American and Latino communities.
The extent of the potential harm is mapped out in a report, Medicaid: A Lifeline for Blacks and Latinos With Serious Health Care Needs, issued in October by a coalition of health and civil rights organizations. A key finding: Medicaid funding cuts wouldn’t actually save money; they’d simply shift costs from the federal government to the individual states, hospitals and people without medical insurance. Since they would be unlikely to make up the difference, the result would be a decline in the quality and availability of health care for low-income families, from children's vaccinations to annual physicals to hospice care. And for those with the most serious ailments, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, strokes or chronic lung disease, the withdrawal of critically needed medicine and treatment could have dire consequences.
The onus would fall disproportionate on Blacks and Latinos, the study says.
"As policymakers consider sharp cutbacks in the Medicaid program, this report brings an important potential consequence of their actions to the table — that cutting Medicaid will likely hit hardest at communities of color and, in particular, those who depend on the program to manage and treat their chronic illnesses," said Ralph B. Everett, president and CEO of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, one of the study’s principal sponsors.
According to BlackVoicesNews, researchers noted the following:
Among African–Americans… those relying on Medicaid for ongoing medical treatment amount to more than one in five individuals with cancer (21.9 percent, an estimated 141,000 people), nearly one in four diabetics (24.4 percent, 778,000), well over a third of chronic lung disease sufferers (37.0 percent, 1.4 million) and more than one in five who suffer from heart disease or have had a stroke (21.6 percent, 1.9 million).
For Latinos, those relying on Medicaid include nearly one in four who have cancer (24.5 percent, or nearly 105,000 people), more than one-quarter of diabetics (25.6 percent, 692,000), nearly two in five chronic lung disease patients (39.8 percent, 1.4 million) and nearly a quarter of those being treated for heart disease or stroke (23.2 percent, 1.4 million).
And in the end, people of color may potentially pay for these cuts with their lives, because if they lose their Medicaid coverage, how will they be able to afford their insulin, chemotherapy or heart disease medications?
Read the entire report here.
(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)