by Félix Pérez
Millions of low-income children, children with special needs, seniors and persons with disabilities will lose Medicaid coverage or see a significant reduction in coverage if a plan such as the one proposed by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney takes effect. That’s the finding of a new analysis by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
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According to the report, under the Romney proposal, similar to the House budget plan authored by Romney running mate Paul Ryan, “reductions in [Medicaid] enrollment could total 20.5 million.” Both the Romney proposal and the Ryan budget would convert Medicaid into a block grant and repeal the Affordable Care Act, which includes a major expansion of Medicaid.
The proposed changes and reductions in federal financing for Medicaid under the House Budget Plan would almost certainly worsen the problem of the uninsured and strain the nation’s safety net . . . , with no obvious alternative to take its place, concluded the Kaiser report.
Medicaid provides health care coverage to 32 million children nationwide; approximately 15 percent of the children have special health care needs. The single largest health insurer for low-income children, Medicaid is also the primary source of health care for the elderly, persons with disabilities and low-income parents.
Because of the link between children’s access to quality health care and their ability to attend school regularly and succeed academically, the Romney/Ryan proposal worries educators such as Wilfred Dunn of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Dunn teaches fifth grade at Wilson Elementary School, where nine of every 10 children are eligible for a free or reduced price lunch. Without Medicaid, said Dunn, speaking on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court this spring, many of his school’s students would come to school sick, unable to concentrate in class. They wouldn’t be able to get the medicine they need, Dunn said, or eye exams, or hearing exams, or eyeglasses, or hearing aids or dental exams that are essential to learning.
“Last year, I had a student who couldn’t get the medicine he needed to help treat his attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder,” recounted Dunn. “Without his medicine, he couldn’t focus enough to learn and became a distraction to the other students, making it hard for them to learn as well.”