Advocates question value of Medicaid cuts

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(Host) A coalition of consumer and health care groups warned on Thursday that cuts to the state’s Medicaid program would be devastating for many Vermonters. The group also argued that the cuts would hurt the state economy.

The Citizen’s Health Care Forum released a report compiled by “Families USA” that shows that the state of Vermont spent $244 million on various Medicaid programs in 2001. The report says this appropriation resulted in the creation of almost 10,000 new jobs.

Governor Jim Douglas says he’ll propose some Medicaid cuts. They’ll most likely come in the form of higher co-payments and deductibles for people in the higher eligibility income groups. Coalition spokesman Peter Youngbaer says it’s important to remember that the Medicaid program is matched with federal dollars, so that cuts at the state level will result in the loss of some federal funds:

(Youngbaer) “If you look at the Medicaid program as a whol, it’s a 60-40 split. When we cut a dollar’s worth of health care services in the Medicaid program, we only save our state budget 40 cents on the bottom line. And I think that’s the real point here, is that this study wants to make sure that in our discussions about the health care system that we pay attention to the economic impact of the expenditure of Medicaid dollars.”

(Host) Douglas says he understands the group’s concerns but that doesn’t change the need to reduce Medicaid spending:

(Douglas) “But I think we need to get the cost of Medicaid under control, and I guess you can make the argument, as apparently this study does, that there’s an economic stimulus benefit to a public expenditure. But I need to keep state spending under control and that’s what I’m going to do.”

(Host) Douglas will outline his specific budget proposals in a speech to lawmakers next week.

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