May 19, 2017

American Health Care Act Harmful to Children and Adults with Serious Disabilities, Seniors

The U.S. House’s Affordable Care Act repeal bill — the American Health Care Act — could force Sunshine State residents receiving Medicaid home- and community-based services into institutions or nursing homes

LAKE MARY, FL – The Florida Policy Institute (FPI) today announced that findings in a new Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) report show that Florida seniors and adults and children with serious disabilities would be particularly hard hit by the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is under consideration by the U.S. Senate.

Currently, Medicaid funding helps these vulnerable Floridians receive medical and therapeutic services in their homes or on an outpatient basis in the community. These services are significantly more cost effective than institutionalization or placement in a nursing home. Home- and community-based services (HCBS) served more than 105,000 Floridians in Fiscal Year 2013, allowing them to stay close to family and loved ones.

“This is yet another example of how much Floridians have to lose if this bill becomes law,” said Joseph F. Pennisi, executive director of FPI. “Without protections for HCBS, we could see a very vulnerable population jeopardized, possibly being stripped of the care they are used to receiving in their homes, or the creation of long waiting lists to access these services because of the funding cut. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio must reject any legislation that tries to cut or cap Medicaid, causes people to lose coverage or takes away critical protections.”

The AHCA would end the expansion of health care services funded through the Affordable Care Act and impose deep cuts to the Medicaid program. Overall, the bill would cut $839 billion in federal Medicaid spending, shifting $7 billion in costs to Florida.

The bill would radically restructure Medicaid, imposing a per capita cap on federal funding and cutting off millions of dollars the state needs to cover more than 4 million Floridians — including children, seniors and people with disabilities — who rely on Medicaid as their lifeline for medical services.  As federal cuts continue to grow, the state would have to make a range of difficult decisions to make up the difference from its own funds. That would mean cutting vital public services like education and public safety or, instead, cutting payment rates for services, further restricting eligibility for services or cutting benefits in Medicaid, including rolling back HBCS, which are optional Medicaid services that the state could drop when faced with funding shortfalls.

This is particularly worrisome in Florida, which is witnessing explosive growth in its aging population: Residents aged 60 or older are projected to represent 56.9 percent of the state’s population growth through 2030. Notably, Florida’s low-income aging population growth rate is above the national average (26 percent compared to 14 percent), which increases the demand for services provided under HCBS.

“Keeping constituents alive and healthy should be our senators’ top priority,” added Pennisi. “Cutting or capping Medicaid would do the opposite.”

The Florida Policy Institute is an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting widespread prosperity through timely, thoughtful and objective analysis of state policy issues affecting economic opportunity.

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