July 12, 2011
Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Zoe Lofgren joined with dozens of her colleagues in asking President Obama to oppose any Medicaid cuts that would risk women’s health or restrict the ability of health care providers to treat women.
The full text of the letter is below:
July 11, 2011
President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
We urge you to oppose any Medicaid cuts that would jeopardize women’s health or restrict the ability of health care providers to treat women in the program. Medicaid provides services to more than 50 million people, and more than two-thirds of the program’s adult beneficiaries are women. As a result, proposals to cut Medicaid particularly burden women. The blended FMAP rate, for example, would lead to cost-shifting to the states, ultimately restricting health care access for women—grandmothers in nursing homes, friends or relatives with special needs, working moms with young kids. To protect women’s health, we must protect Medicaid.
Medicaid provides nursing home care, disability services, and basic health care to millions of women. Women comprise a majority of older Americans who rely on Medicaid. Twenty-five percent of total federal and state Medicaid dollars funded services for elderly individuals in 2007, and women made up 69 percent of these elderly individuals. Nationally, Medicaid paid nearly half of all nursing home expenditures, and fifty percent of those who benefitted from these expenditures were elderly women, compared to only seventeen percent of elderly men. Women also comprise a majority of individuals who rely on Medicaid because of their disability. Forty-two percent of total federal and state Medicaid dollars supported services for non-elderly individuals with disabilities in 2007, and women made up 53 percent of these individuals. And women comprise a majority of non-elderly adults who rely on Medicaid. While only 12 percent of total federal and state Medicaid dollars support services for other non-elderly adults, 77 percent of these adults were women—many of them mothers struggling to raise their children in difficult economic times.
As a result, proposals to lower Medicaid eligibility levels, reimbursement rates, or otherwise cut funding from the program disproportionately burden women. Lower eligibility levels will result in fewer women with access to needed care, which will have a substantial affect on health outcomes. A recent report showed that 90 of adult Medicaid beneficiaries had a usual source of care as compared to 48 of uninsured adults. Moreover, such proposals will result in many older women—mothers and grandmothers—being forced out of nursing homes or be forced to bear the burden of crushing medical debt. Elderly women and women with disabilities will have fewer resources available to help them stay in their homes and communities, which could also increase the need for more expensive institutional care. Reduced access to care among Medicaid beneficiaries would also likely result in inadequate use of prenatal care, which is associated with increased risks of low birthweight, preterm birth, neonatal mortality, infant mortality and maternal mortality.
Proposals to cut funding from Medicaid also jeopardize health care providers’ ability to deliver vital care, and patients’ ability to get the care they need. Surveys have shown that inadequate payment rates are the leading cause of providers’ decision not to accept Medicaid patients, and low payments form a barrier to access to provider care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 23 percent of women Medicaid beneficiaries reported a problem finding a new doctor who would accept their insurance, compared to 7 percent of Medicare beneficiaries and 13 percent of women with private insurance. A 2008 survey found that 28 percent of ob-gyns surveyed said they would not accept new Medicaid patients, compared to only 4 percent who were not accepting new patients with private insurance.
Finally, proposals to cut funding would ultimately cost States and the Federal government more in the long run. The consequences of inadequate prenatal care, for example, ultimately result in higher costs to the health care system, as preterm births increase US health care costs by $26 billion annually. Moreover, regular access to family planning services through the Medicaid program offers another efficient way to save money. The sobering statistics re-iterate that regular access to health care is a necessity, not an option.
Efficiencies like women’s medical homes and improved access to family planning services—rather than cuts to eligibility levels or provider reimbursement rates–are a more effective approach that will benefit, rather than harm, the women who depend on the program. In fact, the Medicaid program has long recognized the importance of improving access to family planning services—both in terms of improving women’s health and in terms of cost-savings to the government. This is why it is especially critical that existing protections for family planning, such as the mandatory service requirement and the 90 percent federal match, are preserved.
Therefore, we urge you to ensure that deficit reduction does not occur at the expense of our nation’s women, and to protect women’s health by protecting Medicaid.