Meeting with Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

We know how important Medicaid policies are for you. Here in D.C. we are doing our part to continually insert ourselves into these discussions on behalf of individuals with disabilities, their families and those that provide care and services. Recently, UCP attended a talk with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) regarding the threat posed to Medicaid in the current political environment.

Here is a summary of the meeting, along with key takeaways. The primary topic of discussion from CBPP that posed the biggest threat was the sectioning of Medicaid funding to states, primarily in the form of Per Capita Caps and Block Grants.  Amongst the various alterations in the budgetary sector of Medicaid, are Block Grants and Per Capita Cap, both of which section off the funding to states. While both have their varying adverse factors, the common ground lies in the fact that the implementation of such monetary action depletes the protection that the disability community receives through Medicaid.

We appreciate the varying level of background and impact of this issue for our network, but we wanted to provide this as a resource to use as you see fit.  If you have additional questions please reach out.

What is the difference between a Block Grant and a Per Capita Cap?

  • Block Grants are given to the state in one lump sum
    • States allocate where the money will go
    • States also have to make up the difference after federally allotted money is used
  • Per Capita Caps are fixed
    • Capped funds from the governments issued to states per beneficiary of Medicaid
    • There is an anticipated larger gap between funding and spending due to the increase of technological advancement

What is the problem at hand?

Block grants are one of the least accountable of measures to “reform” Medicaid.  It has an inability to adjust to varying economic conditions; it can be cut easily and it’s bias towards, or against, certain beneficiary groups puts it at a position of being severely harmful to the disability community.

Per Capita Caps have been a part of the Republican Task Force in regards to Medicaid Reform. Seen as the lesser of two evils, the attention surrounding this initiative has given it undue positive light in attempt to downplay the negative repercussions that the implementation of such will have on those with disabilities who benefit from Medicaid.

If implemented, Per Capita Caps will limit the budgetary liberty per beneficiary. Through its supposed flexible nature, the fluctuation of this cap will cause altercation amongst the beneficiary groups and the state governments. Seen as bipartisan, and a better alternative to Block Grants, Per Capita Caps inevitably moved conversation away from the stride that Medicaid innovation has made.

In terms of Republican Task Force strategy, many Democratic Governors and Senators have signed on for Per Capita Caps, seeing, again, that it may be considered to be the lesser of two evils. This supposed bipartisan act will decrease the amount of funding per state per beneficiary, therefore increasing the cost as time goes through due to a variety of external factors, i.e., disease, pharmaceutical drug innovation, accessible technology, as these costs will not be picked up by Per Capita Cap.

What does this mean for the disability community?

As mentioned, it is evident that the disability population under Medicaid will not be protected in the event that Per Capita Caps are implemented, due to the fact that there have been vast strides in the innovative technology surrounding assistance for those who have disabilities. As per the act, these costs will not be picked up by Per Capita Cap, meaning that any new innovation will be subject to budgetary restrictions and will only be available with additional cost.  

This is all concerning and individuals with disabilities may no longer be entitled to health care or to long term services and supports under a block grant.  Combined with a fixed amount of severely reduced funding, states could be forced to cut eligibility, benefits, and provider payments. People with disabilities stand to lose access to physicians, medications, therapies, medical equipment, and many other crucial products and services. Worse, states could go back to institutionalizing people with disabilities to save money since they would no longer have to meet the quality standards currently imposed by the Medicaid program for nursing homes or community based services.  

A per capita cap would make this problem [of the struggle that patients go through to get the necessary budgets to have accessible care] worse by limiting the federal role in Medicaid and shifting more of the program’s costs onto states, providers, and patients. Cuts to provider payments, elimination of benefits and reductions in access to care are virtually unavoidable under this type of proposal.

It seems that if Medicaid budget cuts do go underway, that many of the services that allow for individuals with disabilities to have liberties, will disintegrate, therefore forcing certain individuals to refer back to institutions to obtain services that were otherwise integrated within the community. In a way, this repercussion contradicts the Olmstead Act from 1999, which worked to remove economic influences from forcing individuals into institutions. By cutting Medicaid budget, and by proxy, its services, individuals that work in the community and live at home face the threat of losing a large portion of their own budget on medical care, forcing them out of their homes and back into institutions.

What can we do next?

We continue to watch and monitor the development of programs around Medicaid Block Grants and Per Capita Caps.  We need to look at both of these as threats to the current Medicaid system and not as one being a solution that is be is imperative that there should be a conversation shift in the way that the media portrays this endeavor. Instead of looking at Per Capita Cap as the lesser of two evils, it is important to take into account what this means specifically for the disability community and what this means for the future of technology and pharmaceutical advancements. State officials should be informed of the true bearing of cost that they will be burdened with, and they should be prepared to hear of the lack of protection that it will provide to beneficiaries.

Keeping everyone who is affected by the funding changes in Medicaid updated is imperative, seeing as it is one of the issues that will affect life on a day to day basis for individuals with disabilities. We wish to drive programs and legislations that will allow for a higher standard of health care. We not only wish to expand upon the knowledge that our affiliates hold on Medicaid and other health care issues, but also wish to understand how each individual is impacted by these issues and work towards significant policy change.