Gov. Gina Raimondo has appointed a working group to "reinvent Medicaid." The group must present the Governor with ideas for trimming costs and improving quality by the end of April. Sounds wonky, perhaps, but this is a big and important job. The results could affect all of us. How?
- It's costing us money. You and I pay for Medicaid with our tax dollars. It's part state-funded, part federally-funded. And even with the federal matching money, Medicaid accounts for a third of the state budget. It's a big driver behind the state's budget deficit.
- It covers lots of us. About a quarter of all Rhode Islanders receive Medicaid assistance. That includes low income families with children, pregnant women, low income adults, adults with disabilities, low income elderly, and more.
- It's saving us money. Yes, in some ways, Medicaid saves us money because it pays for the medical care recipients might otherwise go without, leading to an emergency room visit or hospital stay. When people without insurance use hospitals, it's called "uncompensated care." And we're ultimately paying for that, too, in part, with taxpayer dollars. If we can improve Rhode Islanders' health by improving the quality and efficiency of Medicaid services, that's a win for everyone.
- It's a lifeline for lots of Rhode Islanders. Medicaid programs are often the only option for some Rhode Islanders when it comes to getting health insurance coverage. Cutting benefits, or changing eligibility rules, could affect vulnerable families at a time when our economy is still sputtering. The state is required to cover certain services and certain populations. But some of the spending is optional, and that's one area I imagine this new working group will be looking for ways to trim costs. If they make cuts, who will lose coverage or have to pay more for it?
I'll be following the work group's progress. Got a relevant story to share? Let me know.