By: Anna Maria Barry-Jester
The plan to repeal the ACA has been outlined, basically saying that more people will become insured at a much lower price for all. However, that plan is not clear on how exactly this will be possible. ACA, and its programs like Medicaid, have helped many underprivileged people, and as mentioned by CCF’s executive director, Joan Alker, it plays an essential role in the health system – especially when it comes to disasters, outbreaks and epidemics.
Medicaid is a lifeline for the poor, but it plays other vital roles in the health system too, said Joan Alker, the executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. It is a first responder during natural disasters and outbreaks, for example. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Medicaid helped get care to those who were injured, as it did after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. And it was used last year to combat an HIV outbreak in southern Indiana. The outbreak was caused by injection drug users sharing needles; Medicaid was also used to provide addiction treatment to those infected. “The uncertain is always certain. These things will happen. We may not know what will happen where, but we know they will occur,” Alker said.
States would struggle to react quickly to epidemics or natural disasters if the program were changed to a per capita cap or a block grant, Alker said. That’s because states currently know that the federal government will pick up a percentage of the bill. If there’s a limit on the funding, states have to cover all of the cost or wait for Congress to pass a bill to make additional funding available. When Zika began arriving in the U.S. last year, Alker pointed out, it took Congress eight months to approve half of the funds agencies said they needed to fight and research the virus.
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