Death by Budget Cut: Fatal Consequences of Medicaid Cuts

Medicaid budget cuts in a number of states present drastic examples of how people’s right to health care is violated in a system that makes access to care dependent on a person’s income. The state of Arizona has implemented some of the most extreme cuts, denying organ transplants to poor and low-income people. Yesterday, the death of a patient was reported as a "most likely" result of this policy.

From a Washington Post article:

“PHOENIX — A second person denied transplant coverage by Arizona under a state budget cut has died, with this death "most likely" resulting from the coverage reduction, a hospital spokeswoman said Wednesday.
University Medical Center spokeswoman Jo Marie Gellerman said the patient died Dec. 28 at another medical facility after earlier being removed from UMC’s list for a liver transplant needed because of hepatitis C.” […]

Effective at the beginning of October, Arizona had cut Medicaid funding of certain transplant operations. The New York Times reported on December 2, 2010:
“PHOENIX – Even physicians with decades of experience telling patients that their lives are nearing an end are having difficulty discussing a potentially fatal condition that has arisen in Arizona: Death by budget cut.
Effective at the beginning of October, Arizona stopped financing certain transplant operations under the state’s version of Medicaid. Many doctors say the decision amounts to a death sentence for some low-income patients, who have little chance of survival without transplants and lack the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to 
pay for them.” […]

Other states are also implementing potentially deadly cuts. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that “in FY 2010, 20 states implemented benefit restrictions, the largest number in one year since the surveys began in 2001 and double the number from FY 2009. In addition to this record level of benefit restrictions in FY 2010, 14 states have planned benefit restrictions in FY 2011. These benefit restrictions include the elimination of covered benefits as well as the application of utilization controls or limits for existing benefits. For example, several states eliminated all or some adult dental services including Arizona, California, Hawaii and Massachusetts.”

Despite high federal matching payments for Medicaid (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides a temporary increase in the federal Medicaid matching rate -"FMAP"- from October 2008 through June 2011), nearly every state implemented at least one Medicaid spending cut in FYs 2010 and 2011, especially provider and benefit cuts.

Medicaid is also under attack at the federal level, as a comparison of proposed budget cuts shows.