Health care professionals warn of ripple effect of Medicaid cuts

TRENTON – Officials who work with Medicaid patients questioned Tuesday whether they would still be able to treat poor patients effectively if funding reductions are not reversed. Some said it would simply shift the costs to other entities and the state’s proposal will do little to save money in the long run.

Evelyn Liebman of N.J. Citizen Action told the Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee that a proposal to cut Medicaid by an estimated $500 million has few details behind it, and it’s difficult to see what the impact of it will be without knowing them.   

She requested there be no cuts in service or eligibility. She also expressed concern about a proposal to eliminate 1,400 people from FamilyCare, a state insurance program for low-income individuals.  

“These safety net programs are needed more than ever,” she said.

She also called for restoring the millionaire’s tax.

Cathy Graham Davis, of N.J. Primary Care Association, who works with federally qualified health centers, fears there may not be enough staff to handle the work if the program is transferred to community-based facilities. She said it’s crucial to have the staff before transferring patients to such facilities.

“Unless those providers are in place, we are sending them to a system that is not adequate,” she said.

Paul Langevin of the Health Association of New Jersey said a proposed $74 million cut in Medicaid, specifically for patients in special care facilities, would eventually prove more costly for the state, since many of them will wind up in the hospitals.

Milly Silva, who represents the  nursing home and health care workers for SEIU 1199, protested another proposal calling for a $140 million cut in Medicaid funding “on the state’s most vulnerable population.”

Cuts to reimbursement rates to nursing homes may force them to reconsider staffing levels and limit the number of Medicaid patients they accept, Silva said.

“Where will that senior go for care,” she asked.

Jim Donnelly of the New Jersey Adult Day Care Association said  increases in co-pays could result in an additional $25 a month for Medicaid patients, which he described as a hurdle.  “We are putting a tax on the population,” he said.  

He described that proposal as a “hastily put together initiative… that borders on reckless.”

Assemblyman and Budget Committee Chairman Lou Greenwald, (D-6), of Voorhees, said such cuts could create a “ripple effect” which could ultimately wind up costing the state more than the initial cuts. It could also result in a loss of jobs for several health workers.

Assemblyman Gary Schaer, (D-36), of Passaic,  said the state should be “frontloading” by investing more in nursing homes and federally qualified health centers, given that it is so much less expensive than if the patients wind up at hospitals.

“We’re doing it backwards with this budget,” he said.  

Health care professionals warn of ripple effect of Medicaid cuts