How Would Republican Plans for Medicaid Block Grants Actually Work?

There are only so many ways to cut Medicaid spending.

You can reduce the number of people covered. You can reduce the benefit coverage. You can also pay less for those benefits and get doctors and hospitals to accept less in reimbursement. Or you can ask beneficiaries to pay more.

None of those are attractive options, which is why Medicaid reform is so hard. Medicaid already reimburses providers at lower rates than other insurance programs. How do you reduce the number of beneficiaries when the vast majority of people covered are poor children, poor pregnant women, the disabled, and poor older people? Which of those would you cut?

Reducing benefit coverage has always been difficult because most of the spending has been on the disabled and poor older people, who need a lot of care. Beneficiaries don’t have much disposable income, so asking them to pick up more of the bill is almost impossible.

That doesn’t mean that states haven’t tried. As I’ve discussed in past columns, a number are attempting to increase cost sharing. But this isn’t really a solution because it doesn’t change overall spending much at all.

– New York Times

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