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September 1, 2014, 1:33 am

Report: Medicaid cuts jeopardize millions

A detailed report indicates that cuts to Medicaid could leave millions of Black and Latino Americans with life-threatening illnesses at risk.

The report “Medicaid: A Lifeline for Blacks and Latinos with Serious Health Care Needs” was released jointly by the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Council of La Raza, the National Medical Association (NMA), the National Urban League Policy Institute and Families USA.

The report highlights the importance of Medicaid to the Black and Latino communities and the heavy burden of chronic disease borne by these groups.

The Medicaid study comes at a time when the joint federal-state program is under assault by cash-strapped states seeking to close budget gaps.

“This seminal report clearly demonstrates the absolute, disproportionate and crucial need for Medicaid among racial and ethnic minority Americans,” said Hilary O. Shelton, director, NAACP Washington bureau and senior vice president for Advocacy and Policy.

“The NAACP continues to advocate that one of the primary responsibilities of government is to serve as a safety net to help citizens who may need assistance at critical times in their lives. Individuals suffering from cancer, diabetes, lung disease, heart disease or who have had a stroke clearly fall into this category and as this report demonstrates Medicare and Medicaid are currently necessary programs when it comes to providing these Americans with life saving medical care and treatments.”

The report seeks to make clear that Medicaid provides life or death health coverage for millions of Americans.

The report found that nearly 778,000 African Americans with diabetes rely on Medicaid coverage, while more than 1.4 million African Americans with chronic lung disease are covered by the program.

According to the report, one in five African Americans with cancer, an estimated 141,000, rely on Medicaid for their treatment.

“There are critical disparities in the delivery of health care to Black and Latino communities, which contributes to a higher incidence and greater severity of chronic and serious health conditions in these communities,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA said in a release.

“That medical reality combined with the fact that these communities tend to have lower incomes, means that Medicaid is a vital lifeline in protecting the health and well-being of these Americans.”

The report notes that because Blacks and Latinos tend to have lower incomes than whites, they are more than twice as likely to rely on Medicaid for health care coverage. Medicaid helps roughly half of all Black and Latino children get a healthy start in life, and its helps Black and Latinos and people with disabilities who need long-term care.

“The findings from this study confirms the position that the NMA has repeatedly held, namely that Medicaid provides coverage for the most vulnerable and that we should do all we can to protect their access and preserve the quality of care received,” said Dr. Cedric Bright, president of the NMA.

The study provides state-specific data for Blacks and Latinos who rely on Medicaid and suffer from conditions such as cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease, heart disease and stroke.

“During the economic downturn, we are also seeing that Medicaid funding is not only critical for low-income families, it is also becoming a lifeline for middle class families who have lost jobs and been dropped from employer-sponsored insurance,” said Chanelle Hardy, executive director of the NUL Policy Institute.

“Too many families rely on Medicaid as their critical access point to health care and arbitrary cuts to the program will do nothing to reduce the cost of health care.”

Families USA contracted with The Lewin Group to develop the estimates in the report.