Washington Lawmakers Plan to Slash Medicaid Spending While Boosting Tax Cuts

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STATEMENT: Key Treatment Program At Risk

Washington Lawmakers Plan to Slash Medicaid Spending While Boosting Tax Cuts

Two-thirds of Blacks in treatment for AIDS pay for it with public insurance programs

Congressional leadership and the Administration have colluded to pass a plan for cutting Medicaid by $10 billion over the next five years. Medicaid is the largest payer for HIV treatment in the nation, accounting for half of all people in treatment. Sixty- four percent of African Americans being treated for HIV/AIDS pay for it with Medicaid or Medicare.

The fiscal year 2006 budget plan that a House- Senate committee agreed to last week would hold all domestic spending flat and slash spending on programs that form a safety net for America’s poor. At the same time, the plan racks up another $106 billion in tax cuts for wealthy Americans over the next five years. The budget plan suggests that much of the budget reductions come from Medicaid. Ideas for cutting the program’s spending that are already being discussed include increasing patient co-pays and tightening restrictions on who qualifies for enrollment.

Earlier this year, the Senate voted to remove all Medicaid cuts from the budget plan and to instead establish an independent commission to study ways to reduce costs. The Republican leadership and the White House, however, reinserted the cuts during the conference negotiations that were needed to reconcile the House and Senate proposals. President Bush’s budget proposal had recommended $14 billion in Medicaid cuts over the next five years.

The budget resolution is just the first step in Congress’ annual budgeting process. Between now and the start of the fiscal year–October 1–the House and Senate will each hammer out the details of what each government program can spend next year. Members of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, are believed to support at least keeping Medicaid spending level. The National Governor’s Association has also expressed concerns over cutting the program, but has now begun negotiating ways to reduce spending with key House members. The African American community must engage both our state leaders and our representatives in Washington to let them know how crucial Medicaid is to our community’s health.

Already, African Americans living with HIV are seven times more likely to die from the virus than infected whites. If Washington guts Medicaid, even as it hands out billions of additional dollars in tax cuts, more of us may be driven out of treatment or required to accept lower-quality care–and the AIDS death gap is likely to grow.

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