Medicaid challenge

Recent Medicaid cuts have cost Kansas $140 million in federal funds and are taking a mounting personal toll on the state’s most vulnerable residents and their families.

Every individual or group that depends on state funds is hurting right now, but when it comes to budget cuts that are penny-wise and pound-foolish, cuts in Medicaid reimbursement may take the cake.

In a Friday news conference, members of the Big Tent Coalition, which represents the whole spectrum of Kansans receiving social services, pointed out some of the “mind-boggling” impacts that have resulted from Gov. Mark Parkinson’s 10 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursements — impacts that will only get worse if cuts are maintained or increased.

One mother said the cuts have reduced wages for the caregiver for her 36-year-old daughter who has severe disabilities. Without the caregiver, the woman said, she would be unable to both keep her daughter at home and continue to hold down a job. In this case, Medicaid cuts would lead to another unemployment statistic or another person in a nursing home.

A Wichita man said the cuts have brought the end to respite and dental care for his 18-year-old autistic son. A Topeka man, whose diabetes and congestive heart disease require him to use a wheelchair, said additional cuts may force him to go into a nursing home.

Nursing home care for any of these people would be far more expensive to the state than to continue to supplement their care at home. That is, of course, if they could even find a nursing home placement. The 10 percent cut in the Medicaid reimbursement has caused many nursing homes to quit accepting new residents.

For some of these Kansans, family members may be able to at least temporarily pick up some of the caregiving chores, but what about those who don’t have that option?

The 10 percent reduction in Medicaid reimbursements amounted to about $77 million for the state, but that cut is made even more painful by the fact it resulted in an additional loss of $140 million in federal matching funds.

When Parkinson announced the 10 percent cut late last year, he didn’t have a lot of good options. He acknowledged at the time that he was asking people who provide Medicaid-funded services to keep providing those services with even less reimbursement. In many cases, they probably are doing just that, but Medicaid rates were low even before the cuts; in some cases, nursing homes and other care providers simply can’t make ends meet.

Legislators are facing tough financial challenges, but they need to remember the personal challenges that face the state’s most vulnerable residents and their families every day.