October 25, 1995
Web posted at: 12:45 a.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republican plans for overhauling Medicaid would leave 12 million Americans without health insurance, two consumer watchdog groups said Tuesday.
Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, and the National Health Law Programme released a report Tuesday saying House and Senate Medicaid proposals would force hospitals to close emergency rooms to patients regardless of their ability to pay.
The findings are based on results in California, where state lawmakers cut Medicaid spending 18 percent in the 1980. The plans pending on Capitol Hill would scale back spending twice that much.
According to the report, 11 out of 23 emergency centers closed during the California cutbacks, leaving an estimated 800,000 residents without a trauma center. The report also claims the cutbacks caused more than 280,000 people to lose their health insurance.
"We took a look at what happened in California, and it was devastating," said Jeanne Finberg, a senior attorney for Consumers Union and co-author of the report. "Emergency rooms closed, never to be re-opened, which endangered not just the poor or the disabled or the elderly but ... middle-income people, as well." (220K AIFF sound or 220K WAV sound)
A spokesman for a conservative think tank challenged the report. "There is no basis for (the findings)," said Peter Ferrara, a spokesman for the National Center for Policy Analysis. "In fact, more people will be covered under the Medicaid reform proposals than less." Ferrara said that's because the Republican plan sends money currently being spent on Medicaid backs to the states in the form of block grants. (305K AIFF sound or 305K WAV sound)
Ferrara said the Republican plans would also fund a voucher program allowing the poor access to private health care services.
Opponents of Medicaid downsizing took the fight outdoors with a noisy demonstration in Washington on Tuesday. Democratic senators, Medicaid recipients and representatives of 70 groups demanded the program be left to grow at its current rate.
The proposed Republican plans, which are part of budget reconciliation bills to be considered this week, would squeeze almost half a trillion dollars out of Medicaid and Medicare over seven years.
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