Way More Kids Rely On Medicaid Than You Thought

by Jenn Rose

Congressional Republicans have continually insisted that no American will lose their health care because of the "Better Care Reconciliation Act," the new health care plan that would repeal Obamacare. They claim that it's about choice. But the Congressional Budget Office predicts devastating cuts to Medicaid under the BCRA, and the amount of children in the U.S. on Medicaid is shockingly high. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 36 million kids were enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP as of April 2017. That accounts for about 46 percent of the United States' 78 million children.

According to Business Insider, the BCRA would cut $772 billion from Medicaid by 2026, a 26 percent decline in overall funding. While the sharpest cuts are aimed at adults who received coverage under the ACA's expansion, an analysis by health care consulting firm Avalere found that, by 2036, children's coverage would be reduced by 26 percent. Federal funding would be granted to states on a per-capita basis, which means that we're not talking about 26 percent of kids losing coverage; instead, every covered child would see their benefits reduced across the board, regardless of whether the new amount is actually sufficient to cover their health care needs.

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According to 2014 data collect by KFF, $89.6 billion in Medicaid funds were spent on kids in that year, which might sound like a lot, but that works out to less than $2,500 per child. The federal government doesn't completely fund Medicaid; states also make a contribution. But, on average, 57 percent of a state's Medicaid funds come from federal grants, and some states with lower per capita incomes depend on federal funds to cover up to 75 percent of their budgets. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 22.8 percent of children on Medicaid visited an emergency room in 2015. Under the BCRA, just one such visit could wipe them out completely.

According to ThinkProgress, Texas Sen. John Cornyn claims that nobody will lose coverage under the BCRA; instead, they'll choose to go without, or else "buy what they value." White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short has also deflected sacrificing the health of 22 million Americans with a fun rhyme: "That’s not losing, that’s choosing." And House Speaker Paul Ryan also insists that "people will choose not to buy something they don’t like or want," referring to the repeal of the ACA's individual mandate. But there are 36 million children who don't have the luxury of choosing between spending $10,000 per year on out-of-pocket health care costs, or paying nearly $5,000 per year for individual insurance coverage. Relying on a poorly-funded federal aid program is their only option, and the BCRA would trade their well-being in order to subsidize a $200,000 tax cut for millionaires.