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“Nightmare on Main Street” the Theme of Medicaid Education Luncheon

Joining in the Halloween spirit, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) is reaching out to communities to help people understand the Medicaid system and what’s at stake if cuts are made. PHAN said it’s a scary prospect and could have devastating impacts.

“If we see less Medicaid funding coming into Pennsylvania, that’s going to force hospitals, nursing homes, and health care agencies to potentially cut back on staffing, cut back on supplies, which will harm the quality of care and the time they can spend with patients,” said Erin Gill-Ninehouser, education and outreach coordinator with PHAN.

After the election, Congress is expected to consider cuts to the program that serves the elderly, people with disabilities, and others with limited incomes. At a Northside luncheon Monday, the discussion started with the basics of how Medicaid works.

“I think a lot of folks think that Medicaid is something they will never have an interaction with and the reality is that Medicaid helps a majority of middle class families and middle class seniors afford long term care,” said Gill-Ninehouser.

Medicaid is expected to be on the chopping block after a Congressional Super Committee last year failed to reach a long-term deficit reduction plan. On January 1, 2013, automatic, across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending will begin phasing in.  That means, over the next decade some $1 trillion in cuts will be implemented, split between defense and non-defense programs, including Medicaid, if Congress doesn’t take steps to craft another plan.

PHAN, a coalition working to ensure all Pennsylvanians have access to health insurance coverage, said the effects of Medicaid cuts would extend beyond those who depend on the coverage.

“Medicaid dollars stimulate local economies, they help hospitals and health care providers hire and train new workers, then those workers go out into the main streets in their communities and drive local business,” said Gill-Ninehouser.

PHAN is reaching out to seniors, people with disabilities, health care workers, providers, and advocates, urging them to reach out to lawmakers and make their voices heard on the importance of Medicaid. Gill-Ninhouser said similar events will take place across the region and state after the election.