Jumping off mistermix’s post, Republicans are going to have some problems cutting Medicaid for the same reason they can’t cut Medicare.
They ran and won on protecting and expanding benefits to senior citizens, and Medicaid is the other program that hugely benefits senior citizens.
They didn’t run on small government and conservatism. They ran on opposition to cuts in Medicare.
In Ohio. In Florida. In Wisconsin. In Pennsylvania.
Here’s Crossroads GPS in Pennsylvania:
The ad’s narration begins, “Over half a million Pennsylvanians unemployed, and what’s Congressman Joe Sestak done? He voted to gut Medicare, slashing benefits for Pennsylvania seniors. The Obama-Sestak scheme could jeopardize access to care for millions.” In the visuals, the ad says, “Reducing benefits for 854,489 seniors,” a statistic it attributes to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-partisan group that studies health care policy. The ad also says on screen that Sestak “voted to cut Medicare by $500 billion,” citing his vote in favor of the Democratic health care bill that was signed into law earlier this year by President Barack Obama.
That’s Medicare. Which small government conservatives just promised to expand, indefinitely, no matter the cost.
But Medicare isn’t the whole story for senior citizens. Conservatives omit the second half, which is Medicaid.
Medicaid helps poor children, sure, and they’re easy to pick on, but most of what Medicaid spends goes to the elderly and the disabled, for long-term care, which includes nursing homes:
Children account for about half of all Medicaid enrollees but just one-fifth of Medicaid spending. Only one-quarter of Medicaid enrollees are seniors or persons with disabilities, but because these beneficiaries need more (and more costly) health-care services, they account for two-thirds of all Medicaid spending.
Middle class senior citizens and the disabled (pdf) rely on Medicaid for long-term care, and the federal government picks up most of the tab.
If conservatives want to pick a fight on Medicaid, and adopt a brave and principled stand on ending access to medical care for poor children, liberals should be more than happy to have that fight. We can just recycle the Crossroads ads, and change a couple of letters.