On Thursday, February 23, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) held a roundtable discussion with Seattle health care providers and Medicaid patients on the importance of the Medicaid program at International Community Health Services (ICHS) Chinatown International District clinic.
Cantwell discussed the importance of the Medicaid program, which is the federal-state insurance plan that covers low-income people. Medicaid was expanded under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. The expansion of Medicaid included people with annual incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level: $33,465 for a family of four or $16,243 for an individual.
Cantwell also discussed the impacts of the Republican plan to block grant Medicaid, which could prevent low-income individuals and families from receiving healthcare in Washington state. Block granting essentially means that states would get fixed federal grants, which would be based on the state and federal Medicaid spending in any state. The grant would grow slightly each year to account for inflation. But many experts have stated that the inflation adjustments are expected to be less than the medical inflation rate.
Many opponents of the ACA, like House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Trump administration, argue that Medicaid would be more efficient if states got a lump sum from the federal government and then managed the program as they saw fit. But others say that would mean less funding for the program—eventually translating into greater challenges in getting care for low-income people.
Currently, Medicaid covers nearly 75 million adults and children nationwide. In Washington state, more than 600,000 people gained access to health care through the expansion of Medicaid, including 147,250 people in King County and 122,000 people in Seattle.
ICHS Director of Health Services and Community Partnerships, Michael McKee said: “Medicaid is extremely important to ICHS and our patients. In 2016, we provided high quality, cost effective health care to 28,660 people and nearly 17,000, or 59 percent of them, are on Medicaid.”
“Any cuts to Medicaid funding could mean fewer people with insurance or with fewer benefits,” McKee said. “We strongly oppose any reform to Medicaid that could jeopardize access to health care for our patients as well as our ability to provide comprehensive services to improve their health.”