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The Body Count: Millions of NY Lives Threatened by Medicaid Cuts

September 15, 2011

NEW YORK - Nearly 2 million New York children, adults and seniors with major health problems could face life-threatening challenges if the debt-reducing so-called "super committee" on Capitol Hill were to approve spending cuts to Medicaid, according to a new study.

Patients struggling with cancer, heart disease, diabetes and lung disease have a lifeline in Medicaid-covered screenings, prescriptions and doctor's visits. If the program were cut back, says Brian Lahiff, assistant director of the Child Care Council of Suffolk, it would be a tragedy, especially for children.

"To really look at cutting programs that are helping children who have cancer, who have diabetes, or other chronic diseases is just incomprehensible."

The report was released by Families USA, which said it hoped the "super committee" - a number of whose members have defended Medicaid in the past - would decide to keep its hands off the program. The 12-member committee is charged with proposing $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions.

Ron Pollack of Families USA says he hopes the "super committee" will agree with his organization's support of Medicaid.

"There are a significant number of people among the 12 who have stood up over the years for the Medicaid program, and it is my hope that they will continue to do so."

Given the near-unprecedented economic situation the country is in, Lahiff says, reducing the national debt is important.

"Everything needs to be looked at; that's understandable. But to put it on the backs of those who need the most help is just as unfair a notion that I can fathom."

New York administers its own Medicaid program, with every dollar the state spends for health coverage for low-income individuals matched by the federal government. Lahiff wants to see it stay that way.

"Hopefully, there will be decisions that will keep those dollars where they're needed and the children of low-income families will not suffer from those cuts. That's all we can hope for at this point."

The Families USA report is online at familiesusa.org.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY