Medicaid (Update June 2005)
Bishop Skylstad, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote to Congress earlier this year. “As pastors, we believe that a fundamental moral measure of our nation’s budget policy is whether it enhances or undermines the lives and dignity of those most in need Sadly, political pressure frequently has left poor children and families missing in the national debate and without a place at the table. Our nation needs a genuinely bipartisan commitment to focus on the common good of all and on the special needs of the poor and vulnerable in particular. These are tough times. There are few easy choices. But there are some ‘right’ choices. In a time of war, mounting deficits, and growing needs, our nation’s leaders must ensure that there are adequate resources to protect people who are poor and vulnerable both at home and around the world.”
Here are just two of the very important areas where Congress will have to make tough decisions that will determine how we as a nation meet the needs of poor children and families.
Housing and Community Development
The Catholic bishops support a national housing policy that proves quality housing for low-income families, the elderly, and other vulnerable people. While churches, community groups, the private sector, and state and local government have a role, there is no substitute for an involved and committed federal government to meet our common responsibility for safe and affordable housing.
The President’s 2006 budget proposes to cut at least $3 billion in funding for HUD programs. There are deep cuts in programs that serve the lowest income families and individuals, including public housing, Section 811 housing for people with disabilities, fair housing, Housing for Persons With AIDS, HOME formula grants, and Native American Housing Block Grants. Unless Congress provides more funding for current HUD programs than requested, fewer people will have access to safe, affordable housing.
The 2006 budget eliminates the $4.1 billion Community Development Block Grant (including Section 108 loan guarantees, Brownfields, Enterprise Zone /Enterprise Communities, and HUD's office of rural housing and economic development). Most people in low income communities can name worthwhile projects made possible by CDBG: houses rehabbed, senior centers opened, child care centers built, parks created, water and sewer services extended to poor neighborhoods, and much more.
To the Catholic bishops, housing conditions cannot be separated from the surrounding environment. City services, education, the types of services funded by CDBG are critical factors in the creation and maintenance of housing and the neighborhoods that support them.
- Urge congress to oppose cuts in the funding of HUD’s programs that serve extremely low-income families, especially the Community Development Block Grant program
- Urge Congress to oppose changing the targeting provisions of the rental housing voucher program that would disadvantage extremely low income people.
The FY’06 budget for most of the housing and community development programs will be determined by the Congressional Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury and HUD, the Judiciary, District of Columbia (TTHUD). The markup for the House Subcommittee is scheduled for June 15.
Housing advocates will be working with all members of the new subcommittee chaired by Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) to ensure that the funds included in the President’s FY06 budget request for the voucher program and homeless assistance are not cut. Additionally, funding for other programs—including public housing, Section 811-Housing for People with Disabilities, Housing for Persons with AIDS, and fair housing—needs to be restored. And finally, Congress needs to fully fund CDBG as an integral part of HUD programs.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has consistently worked for access to affordable health care for all, in a way that reflects a priority concern for the poor. Catholic teaching insists that access to adequate health care is a basic human right, necessary for the development and maintenance of life, and respectful of human dignity.
Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) serve as our nation’s health care safety net, providing health care coverage for over 52 million people, including children and adults in low-income families, the elderly and the disabled – many of the sickest and the poorest in our nation.
Without Medicaid and SCHIP, the vast majority of these families and individuals would be uninsured. They cannot afford to buy private insurance. Low-income workers usually are not offered or cannot afford insurance through their employers; and many policies exclude people with disabilities and chronic illnesses. In the absence of these programs, most of those covered by Medicaid and SCHIP would be added to the 45 million Americans who currently have no source of health insurance at all.
In 2003, Medicaid provided coverage to:
- 25 million children
- 14 million adults (mostly low-income working parents)
- 5 million seniors
- 8 million people with disabilities
The Administration’s budget also proposes, without giving specific details, that states be allowed to come up with ways to cover more people under Medicaid, but only if they can do so without increasing the amount of federal funding they receive.
Our nation has long been committed to meeting the basic health care and long-term service needs of low-income Americans through Medicaid, a system of shared federal and state responsibility. We believe this shared responsibility should continue. We urge Congress to:
- Oppose cuts in Medicaid funding in the budget resolution, which could have a negative impact on the poor and vulnerable
- Maintain the fundamental nature of Medicaid as a guarantee to health care for the most vulnerable among us
- If there are changes to Medicaid and SCHIP that result in savings, reinvest those dollars in the program to protect health care for the poor and vulnerable
June 2005 Update
Both the Senate and House proposed budget plans that called for significant cuts to the Medicaid program. The Senate considered cutting up to $15 billion from the program. On March 17, 2005 Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, chairman of the bishops’ Domestic Policy Committee, wrote Senators urging them to support the Smith-Bingaman amendment to strike the cuts from the Senate budget language. Staff also visited with the staff of key Senators, urging them to support the amendment. The amendment passed by a vote of 52-48, resulting in a Senate budget with no Medicaid cuts. The House-passed budget, however, called for up to $20 billion in Medicaid cuts. When the conference committee met to work out differences between the House and Senate budgets, the USCCB joined over one hundred other organizations (including CCUSA and CHA) on an April 20, 2005 letter to the members of the House and Senate urging that the final conference agreement on the budget follow the Senate in rejecting cuts to the Medicaid program and providing funding for a bipartisan commission to study Medicaid. The final 2006 budget resolution calls for up to $10 billion in mandatory Medicaid cuts and provides for a commission to study Medicaid and make recommendations on how to achieve these cuts, and on longer-term changes to the program.