How many D.C. children stand to lose health care?

Nearly half of all children under 18 in the District receive Medicaid – either directly or through CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program). It is a critical piece of the health care puzzle in our city, which actually has one of the highest coverage rates in the nation. But Republicans in Congress are pushing a new plan for Medicaid that would inevitably result in less coverage for our most vulnerable children.

fact sheet on Medicaid/CHIP in the District.>>

The House-passed budget would change Medicaid from an automatic entitlement based on need to a block grant to states, giving them the ability to radically shift benefits and eligibility – the way TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) currently works. (The budget plan still needs to clear the Senate, where it faces serious opposition from Democrats.) When Congress turned cash welfare spending into block grants in the 90’s, caseloads and the real value of TANF spending declined, but over the years the number of families in need hasn’t. We can expect similar results if Congress decides to overhaul Medicaid as a block grant.

The House proposal would cap federal spending on Medicaid at a fixed amount each year, leaving the District and other states to pick up the remaining, steadily growing tab. It would “save” the federal government over $770 billion, but these savings would results in additional costs for D.C. and the states.

Already struggling to cover Medicaid expenses, 43 states have made new program cuts as the Washington Post reported. As Medicaid and healthcare costs grow, states will be more strapped for cash and may restrict benefits further.

With the economic downtown and high unemployment, the number of families in the District relying on Medicaid has grown. The number of children enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP in D.C. has risen sharply in recent years, from just under 71,000 in 2007 to just under 80,000 in 2009.

Transforming Medicaid into a block grant would severely reduce enrollment among families in need—by about 42% over the next 10 years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Applied to the District, that would mean almost 54,000 individuals would lose their health coverage.

Click here to see a map of children in the District and across the country would stand to lose health care coverage if the Republican proposal sticks, from our friends at Voices for America’s Children. You can also send an a letter to Del. Norton or to your member of Congress.