Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate want to change the way in which Medicaid is funded -- the result being a huge reduction in the amount of money the federal government provides to states to insure Medicaid recipients. The problem for these Republican legislators is that Medicaid is an enormously popular program and is the most widely used benefits program in the United States.
Slashing Medicaid spending would almost certainly result in cuts to benefits that Americans depend on. Unsurprisingly, most Americans aren't very excited about this prospect.
A close look at who benefits from Medicaid, and how their benefits could be cut, shows why the majority of Americans -- in all political parties -- don't want Medicaid funding to be reduced.
Trumpcare would cut Medicaid by billions
Both the House and Senate versions of Trumpcare would cut Medicaid -- the House bill by $834 billion through 2026 and the Senate bill by $772 billion -- according to the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan federal agency that evaluates the impact of legislation.
Cuts would come from rolling back Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, which allowed families with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level to qualify for benefits. The proposed bills would also change the way Medicaid funding works. Under Trumpcare, the federal government would provide a capped amount of funding for each enrollee, as determined by a specified growth rate formula, rather than providing funding based on the actual costs of covering Medicaid beneficiaries, as the current system does.
The public doesn't want these cuts
Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a poll of 1,205 adults after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of Trumpcare, the American Health Care Act, with its proposed cuts to Medicaid. When asked about their support for reducing Medicaid funding, 71% of Americans surveyed -- including 90% of Democrats, 70% of independents, and 47% of Republicans -- indicated they wanted funding to continue as it is under the current system. Just 26% supported new limits to federal funding.
When asked whether the federal government should continue to provide federal funding for expanded Medicaid, 84% of respondents said it was important that the states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare continue to receive federal funds under any replacement plan. This included 93% of Democrats, 83% of Independents, and 71% of Republicans. Even people in states that did not expand Medicaid supported the federal government's continuing to provide funds for expansion states.
While this support may seem surprising, especially among Republicans, Medicaid is a popular program because so many Americans personally benefit from it: 58% of Americans -- including 64% of Democrats, 57% of independents, and 46% of Republicans -- said Medicaid is either very or somewhat important to their families.
Cuts are unpopular because Medicaid is widely used
During the course of 2015, Medicaid provided coverage for 97 million Americans at some point throughout the year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Little wonder that more than half of Americans indicate that someone in their household relies on Medicaid.
Medicaid pays 40% of total costs for long-term care services in the United States. It also covers more than 60% of all births in some states, including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico. Medicaid and other public insurance policies also cover 44% of disabled children throughout the United States, and Medicaid is the sole source of health coverage for more than one-third of children with disabilities and special health needs.
With so many Americans relying on Medicaid, support for keeping the Medicaid expansions should come as no surprise. The only remaining question is whether lawmakers will listen to calls to preserve Medicaid expansions or eliminate them along with a host of other Obamacare provisions.