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Medicaid crisis leads to finger-pointing

pizzurosal073111_optBY SALVATORE PIZZURO
COMMENTARY

More than one million people, including the elderly, those with disabilities, and vulnerable children are at risk of losing support for medical care and housing due to cuts in Medicaid services that emanated from policies by both the Obama and Christie Administrations. Interestingly, neither administration has been clear about the long-term impact of recent cuts. The State will receive $107 million dollars less than it had anticipated from the feds. In addition, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been non-committal about whether the cuts could be restored. However, she has stated that she is committed to Medicaid reform.

Vulnerable citizens rely on Medicaid for medical care and housing and the long term consequences of the cuts have yet to be determined. Meanwhile, inner state squabbling has resulted in finger pointing. Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (Democrat, 32nd Legislative District) asserts that the Governor has been less than forthcoming regarding Medicaid funding for children. Ray Castro, senior analyst for the Trenton-based think tank, The New Jersey Policy Perspective has suggested that the federal government has caused the problem and is responsible for resolving it.

While the finger-pointing continues, experts in the field have suggested that the Medicaid crisis will result in tens of thousands of people, including children, elderly citizens, and those with disabling conditions becoming homeless, in addition to being denied health care.

As the federal government feels more pressure from conservatives to cut spending, less money is likely to be sent back to the states for social service programs. In the long run, state governments will be required to provide a larger portion of the funding for its citizens in need. Senior citizens and children will not suddenly stop having health care needs. Those with disabilities will not suddenly stop needing support to survive. In addition, the number of vulnerable individuals will continue to grow, rather than diminish.

The economic times have not improved and it is likely that such squabbling will occur regarding other services, as well. As we move on with administrative plans to cut income taxes and make the environment more comfortable for the wealthy, we, as a society, are finding it more convenient to turn our backs on those who cannot help themselves. New Jersey will be known as that “wonderful place” where those with better economic means have benefitted at the expense of the poor and sickly citizens who cannot fend for themselves.

Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, a Disability Policy Specialist, holds a doctorate in Developmental Disabilities from Columbia University and an advanced degree in Disability Law from New York Law School.

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