Defining Down Decent Health Care

Some politicians have a simple way to deal with the challenge of providing health care to the uninsured: cut the funding for those currently receiving care and deliver half-rate care to more people. West Virgina and Kentucky legislatures both voted recently to cut benefits for existing Medicaid recipients, taking advantage of a new federal law that allows states to selectively cut benefits for different populations.

This is a variation on plans like Arkansas', which is using federal Medicaid funds to offer a cut-rate health plan to employers with less than 50 employees that provides a few doctors visits each year, but no catastrophic protection for serious illness. Florida and Utah are also using federal waivers to cut benefits for existing Medicaid recipients.

While states are under budgetary pressure due to rising health care costs, it's shocking that they are funding these deficts at the expense of their poorest citizens, rather than asking low-wage employers like Wal-Mart to pay their fair share or reining in high prescription drug prices by negotiating better deals from the large pharmaceutical companies. The wrong answer is to "solve" the health care crisis by defining down acceptable health coverage to mean cut-rate plans for poor and working families.

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