Advocates, experts and physicians call on Senate to boost Medicaid funding in next stimulus
Posted July 14, 2020 in Press Releases
Medicaid is not only Ohio’s largest health care provider, it supports jobs in big cities and small towns. With rising unemployment, more Ohioans are enrolling in Medicaid. Today, the Physicians Action Network, Children’s Defense Fund of Ohio and Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio joined Policy Matters Ohio to call on Sens. Portman and Brown to protect Ohioans’ health and the state economy by boosting federal funding for Medicaid in the next COVID-19 relief package.
Because of the ongoing economic crisis arising from the pandemic, the need for Medicaid is unprecedented. According to a new analysis by the nonpartisan group Families USA, an estimated 5.4 million people became uninsured due to job loss between February and May. Medicaid enrollment rose in Ohio by 195,000 people in March through June.
Last spring the federal government boosted its share of Medicaid costs in the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act and the CARES Act. This initial boost in federal share, which is referred to as the Federal Medical Assistance Payment (FMAP) protected Ohio’s largest health care program and helped offset the $1 billion deficit the recession punched in the state budget.
“The problem is, the pandemic recession has really just started,” said Policy Matters Ohio Senior Project Director Wendy Patton. “Ohio needs additional FMAP assistance, that covers all people enrolled in the program, for as long as the pandemic and recession lasts.”
Medicaid is paid for by both state and federal governments. Enhanced federal assistance to the Medicaid program is essential for Ohioans to get the health care they need. Not only does Medicaid provide health coverage for almost 3 million Ohioans, it also boosts the economy by supporting hospitals and health centers that employ nurses, doctors, janitors and other professionals. An injection of federal dollars for Medicaid will free up state resources for other critical needs, like education, job training, public transit, and public works programs.
Dr. Gregory Lam, a cardiologist who practices in Pickaway County and a member of the Physicians Action Network, knows firsthand the devastating health effects of COVID-19. He described additional indirect health impacts of the pandemic as well: “We’ve seen that this pandemic has exacerbated an already-existing opioid epidemic,” Dr. Lam said, pointing to a recent Columbus coroner’s report that they had “literally run out of wheeled carts to put bodies on.” Dr. Lam urged Ohioans to contact their senators to demand increased FMAP: “The last thing people need is the added specter of losing their healthcare coverage.”
Kelly Vyzral, senior health policy associate with the Children’s Defense Fund of Ohio, warned against the scheduled increase of Ohio’s share of the cost of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). “Children will be heading back to school in a few weeks,” Vyzral said. “Whatever that ends up looking like, we want them to have appropriate immunizations and well-checks to protect everyone’s health.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a strong aid package with the HEROES Act. The U.S. Senate meets at the end of this month to consider further aid to see the nation through the pandemic recession. Steve Wagner, executive director of the Universal Health Action Network of Ohio, called on Ohioans across the state, saying, “People who wish to maintain the health of families and the resilience of their communities to withstand the pandemic must ask Ohio’s two senators to fund the enhanced FMAP and protect coverage and benefits.”