Medicaid Cuts?

Some conservative Republican Senators are looking to cut Federal transfers to the States earmarked for those States’ Medicaid programs.  Others are concerned.

[T]he [conservative Senate Republicans’] Medicaid plan could affect many more people and shift significant costs onto hospitals and states.

One State’s Medicaid program, though, should be paid for exclusively by that State and not subsidized by the other 49 through those Federal transfers. Medicaid is, after all, a state program by design, and Medicaid eligibility is determined by each State.  The Federal transfer subsidies are made the more egregious by the fact that each State determines its own citizens’ eligibility for Medicaid, and that eligibility is income-based—with the maximum income for eligibility in most States being a multiple of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.  This means that in those States, a citizen can be eligible for Medicaid funds even though, by definition, that citizen isn’t in poverty.  Other States ought not be required to subsidize, through Federal Medicaid transfers, such eligibilities.  Not only are the States are defining “low income” much too loosely, other States have to pay into those definitions.

If each of those other 49 were able to keep the monies collected by the Feds for transfer, they’d also have more money—of their own—with which to fund their own Medicaid programs, and each of the States, absent attendant Federal strings, would be freer to structure their individual Medicaid programs according to their own citizens’ needs and demands.  As it is, States wanting to structure their programs must waste time and resources pleading to the Feds “Mother, may I?” and then argue the matter.

Such State-initiated restructuring—subject to central government approval—already is beginning to include things like work requirements, drug testing and time limits on coverage, all of which would free up State resources for the State’s truly poor.  Federal cuts to transfers to State Medicaid need not interfere with this; on the contrary, such cuts would encourage needed restructuring, while moving to insulate each State from other States’ decisions.

Of course, such Federal transfer cut would have complex implications and require serious Federal tax code restructure and reform—the taxes the Feds transfer for Medicaid come from a variety of sources: individual and business income taxes, dividend and cap gains taxes, and on and on.

That just puts a premium on getting started.

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