Medicaid funding levels in West Virginia potentially affect every person who seeks health care within our state. Directly affected are over 300,000 West Virginians who receive some assistance from Medicaid programs. Although there have been no changes in eligibility requirements, Medicaid rolls have increased in our state by 12% since 2001. Many more of our citizens are only a serious illness or financial setback away from depending on Medicaid.
Medicaid covers 74% of the state's nursing home residents, pays for nearly two-thirds of WV births, pays for home health services that allow seniors to remain in their own homes, and covers basic health care for the state's neediest families and children. If Medicaid can no longer pay for necessary services, providers will be faced with the dilemma of providing the service at no cost and shifting that cost to others, or not providing a needed service. Because of increased cost shifts, some businesses might have to stop offering insurance to employees, reduce coverage, or increase co-pays. And some service providers who cannot meet their expenses might cut services to the general public or simply go out of business.
Principles For Action
Most important from the standpoint of our Catholic Social Teaching, cuts will decrease health care services to the most vulnerable among us, who are least able to afford them. West Virginia's eligibility requirements for Medicaid are already among the strictest in the nation. Helping to provide for those in our midst who are burdened by poverty is a moral obligation. Health care is a human right (John XXIII, Mater et Magistra #61 http://www.osjspm.org/cst/mm.htm ), not a commodity to be sold only to those who can afford it.
Suggested Policy Directions
- We are concerned about policies that could arise from the state's current waiver proposal, which could be used to cut services to individuals or to tailor eligibility requirements to selected groups. A waiver is not necessary to carry out the Governor's administrative money-saving proposals.
- We oppose co-pays for Medicaid services. Studies have repeatedly shown that even small co-pays of one or two dollars result in low-income persons failing to seek needed treatment.
- We are concerned about the implementation of Personal Responsibility Accounts for Medicaid recipients. Such accounts greatly reduced the number of recipients under TANF, but there is no evidence that this increased the families' well-being. Such accounts could reduce participants' capacity to receive needed care.
- We believe cost savings should be pursued through streamlining program administration and provider costs prior tocutting any services to Medicaid recipients.