Build Upon Medicaid Successes in Health Reform – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

This past weekend some Governors attending their national association’s meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi expressed concern over the future role of Medicaid in health reform. In particular, Tennessee Governor Bredesen, a former healthcare executive, stated that “it’s not health care reform to dump more money into Medicaid.” But indeed, investing more money in Medicaid by paying providers more appropriate rates in Medicaid could help reduce the cost-shifting that is driving up the cost of private insurance. It would also improve access to care.

Health reform shouldn’t just “dump” more money into Medicaid. It should take what works and build upon it. In all of the political rhetoric, let’s also not lose sight of the fact that Medicaid has proven itself to be the most efficient way to provide coverage to low-income Americans. It has lower administrative costs than private insurance and is better equipped to meet the unique needs of disabled Americans, seniors, and more than 20 million children.

Consider proven Medicaid care delivery models like Community Care of North Carolina (CCNC). CCNC is an enhanced medical home model that has greatly improved access and quality of care, while containing costs in Medicaid. A study by the Mercer consulting group estimated that the state’s savings were between $150 and $170 million in FY 2006 alone. An evaluation conducted by the University of North Carolina demonstrated that asthma and diabetes patients had fewer hospitalizations and saw improvement in key health performance measures. Now that’s the kind of health care reform we need.

And let’s not forget that numerous studies have shown that families are grateful for the coverage they get for their kids through Medicaid. By covering kids from head-to-toe with child-appropriate benefits, by removing red-tape that keeps eligible children out and by improving provider payments, we can make great strides to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Medicaid.  Hopefully other Governors will take a closer look at the successes of Medicaid and the willingness of the federal government to assume more financial responsibility for Medicaid before opposing a plan that would make a world of difference for those who cannot afford health coverage for themselves or their children.

Medicaid works, and it should be strengthened as part of health reform. By building on what works, we can capitalize on the infrastructure and experience states have developed in administering Medicaid over the past thirty-five years. In other words, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water; we should build on Medicaid’s successes.

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