Fate of Medicaid could seal local woman’s fate – Chambersburg Public Opinion
In 1977 Fire Chief Jim Cutchall was killed as he responded to house fire near Fayetteville, Pa. A neighbor, Willie Brookens, was also shot and killed. Two volunteer firefighters were wounded. The shooter was captured after a manhunt.
That’s how much one dialysis treatment can cost for Christina McBeth, a Chambersburg woman who needs the treatment to survive.
McBeth was born with one kidney the size of an apple, and received a kidney transplant at age 11. However, she had to have the kidney removed three years ago, and is now dependent on dialysis to survive. For the past eight years, she’s been receiving the treatments three days a week – a process which takes four hours each time.
Right now, Medicaid and two other forms of insurance are paying her bills and keeping costs at a minimum – but this would all change under the Senate’s health care bill.
The Better Care Reconciliation Act would phase out funding for 14 million Americans who became eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act’s expansion, USA Today reported. A report released last week by Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat, estimates about 409,000 Pennsylvania residents could lose access to Medicaid, out of 15 million Americans whom the Congressional Budget Office predicts would also lose this type of coverage.
On the other hand, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey said no will lose their Medicaid eligibility because of the legislation.
“This measure does not pull the rug out from anyone currently covered by Obamacare, and keeps the Medicaid expansion covering able-bodied, working-age, childless adults, while asking the states to eventually contribute their fair share for this care,” he said.
“Further, this bill works to ensure Medicaid is sustainable for future generations by modestly reducing, seven-and-a-half years from now, the rate at which federal spending on the program will grow.”
Casey’s report also suggests $772 billion in federal funding would be cut from the program over the next 10 years.
“The bill decimates Medicaid, which provides health care for over 722,000 Pennsylvanians with a disability and 1.1 million children,” Casey said in a release.
According to USA Today, funding for traditional Medicaid would be cut, and states, which pay a portion of the cost of Medicaid, would have to find new funding or cut the program through restricting enrollment, curbing benefits, reducing payments to health care providers or finding efficiencies.
Although nothing has been finalized, Summit Health’s CEO and President Pat O’Donnell said if the legislation passes, it is certain that ”Medicaid will be cut and many Americans will fall back into the category of uninsured.”
McBeth is one of about 22,790 individuals in the Franklin County enrolled in Medicaid as of this May, according to numbers from the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. In addition to dialysis treatments, she also relies on Medicaid for other medications, transportation costs, therapy, and hospital and doctor visits.
“It’s not even just me,” she said. ”Other patients at the dialysis center are losing what they need. I mean there’s people already passing away at the dialysis center for lack of not having the insurance coverage to be at the hospital.”
Currently, Medicaid covers about $1,000-$1,500 a treatment for McBeth, with the rest covered by Medicare and private insurance she gets through her mother. However, if funding for Medicaid is cut, McBeth risks getting billed roughly $1,500-$2,000 every time she needs dialysis. She receives Social Security because she cannot work, but only gets about $700 per month – which is not enough money to cover even one treatment.
Senate leadership wanted to hold a vote on the bill by early July, but postponed this plan until after return from the July 4 recess.
The Senate returns today. But until the vote takes place, McBeth won’t know for certain whether she could lose coverage or not, but it’s “lingering out there as a serious possibility,” she said.
“I depend on dialysis to live. That’s my life,” she said. “I don’t necessarily have to like it, but it’s my life. I want to choose to live, but if you take my insurance coverage and I can’t get into dialysis because you take the transportation options for me and you take all this from me, I’m stuck basically having to make, as a 29-year-old, decisions as to whether or not I need to look at my end of life - and that’s hurtful. To sit there and be told by the federal government or government, in general, ‘it’s okay, you can go ahead and just die.’”
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