Last week President Bush’s administration published a new federal rule giving states the sweeping authority to charge Medicaid recipients premiums and higher co-payments for doctors’ services, hospital care and prescription drugs. If they can’t afford the payments, providers would then have the authority to turn them away (except for life-threatening circumstances).
This new policy was designed to save money, but many experts claim the bulk of the savings will be the result of low-income individuals not getting needed care. While this may be a short term advantage for the government in curbing cost, delaying medical care could lead to more serious health problems, which ultimately is more expensive. Rather than trying to find a way to provide quality health care for all, the government has found a way they believe will force poor people to pay more.
State lawmakers now have a decision as to whether to incorporate these premiums and co-payments into their state system. For most states facing budget shortfalls, this will be tempting. But this new rule does not get us closer to providing quality health and health care for all – it takes us in the wrong direction. Let’s hope Governor-Elect Nixon and Governor Sebelius will not choose to take this route.