Three months ago the Republicans opened debate on the FY2012 budget when Rep. Paul Ryan released The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise. In that plan, he proposed a remaking of Medicaid that would eviscerate the program’s core purpose: provide health care to the most vulnerable.
Many labor under the misconception that Medicaid is health benefit open to any low-income American. In reality, states are only required to cover impoverished children (including those in foster care), pregnant women, some disabled persons, some adults with dependent children, and the elderly. In fact, more than 2/3 of Medicaid spending pays for services for the disabled and elderly; children consume about 1/5 of the total funds with the rest going to adults.
Childless adults, even those with incomes far below the poverty line are not automatically eligible for Medicaid. Nor are the parents of Medicaid-eligible children automatically eligible for coverage. For example, in Alabama, parents’ incomes cannot exceed 24% of the federal poverty line – less than $5000 a year for a family of three. Eleven other states all have income eligibility well below the FPL.