Coronavirus pandemic highlights weaknesses of Medicaid block grants.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services allowed states to apply for waivers that would give them more flexibility over Medicaid eligibility and enrollment in exchange for less financial backing from the federal government. The new federal guidance allows states to reduce income eligibility standards to lower overall enrollment and limit benefits.
Such policies would be particularly harmful today, as the COVID-19 pandemic and opioid epidemic increase the need for affordable, quality health care for lower-income people.
Block grants and similar proposals called per capita caps, which are supposed to limit spending growth in Medicaid, could result in beneficiaries losing health insurance coverage or certain covered benefits.
Block grants will also place states at great risk for the costs of expanded enrollment, highly likely given current economic conditions.
States’ desire for more flexibility is understandable, but flexibility could lead to harmful cuts. Caps on spending growth could too easily result in reductions in coverage and benefits because of budgetary pressures when the nation still has 32 million uninsured people. These caps are particularly harmful in times like today, as the nation is trying to cope with the coronavirus.
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RWJF Statement on Medicaid Block Grant Guidance
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation issued a statement in response to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s Healthy Adult Opportunity initiative announcement.