Why Medicaid Is Important

President Trump’s budget proposal reveals that his administration plans to cut a whopping $610 billion from Medicaid funding over the next ten years. Including the additional $839 billion that the American Health Care Act plans to slash from Medicaid, the total cuts to the largest health insurance program in the U.S. could round up to nearly $1.5 trillion.

That’s an enormous cut. But, it’s expected from a Republican-controlled government that prides itself on fiscal conservatism (sometimes at the expense of people’s livelihood). Medicaid is often criticized, for reasons other than how expensive it is to fund. The main criticisms are that it is an entitlement program that actually provides bad coverage. Some of these criticisms are fair. For instance, individuals on Medicaid have limited access to providers, while providers are reimbursed at low rates for treating  patients—both of these factors sum up to bad coverage.

But, criticisms seem to ignore the essence of why Medicaid is important in the first place—it provides coverage to individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access health care. In fact, studies show that its expansion may actually have a positive effect on health care by improving affordability and access. A report by the United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) found that 78 percent of Medicaid expansion enrollees indicated that they wouldn’t have been able to access or afford care prior to its expansion. Furthermore, the report says that unmet healthcare needs among low-income adults decline 10.5 percent after its expansion. Also, research by Benjamin Sommers and colleagues of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has showed that Medicaid expansion has also improved access to prescription drugs, including contraceptives and cardiovascular drugs. Increases in drug access was greater in areas with larger Hispanic and black populations, indicating that expanding Medicaid may be reducing racial disparities in health care.

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In addition to improving affordability and access to care, Medicaid may also be responsible for improving help through early treatment and prevention services. States that expanded Medicaid saw a 41 percent increase in preventive visits from its beneficiaries. These preventive screenings for issues such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, as well as early diagnosis and treatment for chronic conditions, can catch illnesses before they become serious and improve the health of low-income populations.

Medicaid has its faults, but it also provides health coverage to millions of Americans. And, despite its deficiencies, enrollees are relatively satisfied with their coverage—86 percent of enrollees rate their Medicaid experience as somewhat or very positive. But, this statistic doesn’t mean that Medicaid should not be improved. Bettering Medicaid requires reform that Obama and the Democratic administration didn’t provide. A greater investment in resources is necessary to improve the quality of care that it receives. Gutting Medicaid, as the Republican regime hopes to do, will not accomplish this. Instead, it’ll remove care and harm the wellbeing of potentially millions.

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Imaz Athar

Imaz Athar is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, double majoring in Neuroscience and Sociology. He aspires to become a physician and plans on attending medical school in Fall 2017. Imaz fell in love with the art of writing at a young age and is currently the Publisher of Pitt's undergraduate-run science magazine The Pitt Pulse. When he's not writing or keeping up with classes, Imaz enjoys running, playing basketball, watching Empire, singing (in the shower), and listening to all kinds of music.