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Survey: Majority of American’s Don’t Want Changes to Medicaid Program

May 31, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - There's a battle taking place in Congress over funding for Medicaid, the program that provides health care for low-income people. One proposal would cut over a trillion dollars over 10 years. But a study by the Kaiser Foundation released last week shows that about 60 percent of Americans want Congress to keep Medicaid in its current form, and just over half don't want the funding cut.

More than 60 percent of Michigan's nursing home residents use Medicaid, and it also provides in-home care for another 80,000 people. Altogether, it serves about a half million Michigan seniors and people with disabilities.

Julie Weckel, a specialist on aging for the National Association of Social Workers-Michigan, says cuts in Medicaid could mean fewer programs to help people stay in their homes.

"It's a lot more fiscally responsible for a waiver program, which can put a few hours of service into somebody's home every day or a couple days a week, than it is to turn around and have this same person have to move into a care facility that requires 24-hour staffing."

Weckel says that, if the federal government reduces funding for Medicaid, state and local governments and health care consumers will have to pick up the tab for people who can afford their own care. She says members of Congress are only fooling themselves if they believe reducing Medicaid funding somehow reduces the need for care.

"If we don't provide for the basics of survival - housing, food, basic medical care - how is it that we can say that we're this great nation when we are taking away the supports that are needed for our most vulnerable?"

House Republicans voted last month to convert Medicaid from an open-ended program that pays about 60 percent of the cost, into a block grant with each state getting a fixed amount and having to decide who to cover and what services to provide.

The Kaiser survey finds that public support for Medicaid is similar to that for Medicare and Social Security.

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI