Advocates urge lawmakers to reject Medicaid cuts

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(Host) A coalition of health care advocacy groups urged lawmakers on Tuesday to reject Governor Jim Douglas’ plan to reform the state’s Medicaid program. The governor has proposed a number of changes to several pharmacy assistance programs – including higher deductibles, larger out of pocket caps and the imposition of an asset resource test. Douglas says the state will incur a $150 million deficit in the Medicaid budget in the next five years if no changes are made to the program.

Vermont Health Care ombudsman Donna Faye Sutton says the cuts unfairly target those Vermonters who are least able to afford them:

(Sutton) “The answer in tough budget times is not to cut health care programs for people who need them, who rely on them, and who have no other access. Instead, I’m hoping the Legislature will be looking at other revenue sources and also allowing the true cost containment measures that’s put into place. Let those work, see how much money is being saved.”

(Host) Helen Faust is a 77-year-old woman who lives in Rutland. Faust lives on an income of roughly $10,000 a year and she takes several medications for a heart ailment. Faust says she’s able to afford her drugs because she participates in the state’s pharmacy program, but she says the changes will be very difficult for her:

(Faust) “I’d have to stop eating. I don’t want to stop eating. It seems to me kind of foolish to pay out all this money for medications to keep me going when I’m not going to have enough to live on.”

(Host) Both the House and the Senate Appropriations committees are looking at this issue as part of their review of next year’s budget.

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