Children's advocates decry Medicaid cuts ahead of deficit supercommittee action

Children's hospitals and advocates are urging the deficit supercommittee to avoid deep cuts to Medicaid as the bipartisan groups prepare to get down to business next week.

The advocacy group First Focus released a new report it ordered about the negative effects of transforming the state/federal program into a fixed block grant for states to use as they see fit. The report found that a block grant would "end Medicaid as we know it, causing states to reduce enrollment, limit benefits, cut provider payments, and shift more costs onto the children and families who rely on public programs."

"As Congress begins its work to secure significant savings as required by the debt ceiling agreement, it is important to remember that Medicaid serves some of our neediest children, seniors, parents, and people with disabilities, who have serious health problems and need access to affordable and efficient health care services," First Focus Bruce Lesley said in a statement. "This paper provides timely information for policy makers who may not recognize that nearly one-third of children in America rely on Medicaid."

Separately, the National Association of Children's Hospitals wrote to the supercommittee co-chairmen to make the same case. The group points out that children's hospitals account for less than 5 percent of the nation’s hospitals but provide almost half of all inpatient hospital care for children covered by Medicaid.

The association urges the committee to "pursue policies with respect to Medicaid that would help to control the growth of clinical costs through improvements in the quality and integration of health care, rather than policies and spending cuts that simply shift costs to states, patients, providers and other payers," the letter reads. "It is essential that children's health services do not disproportionally bear the burden of Medicaid spending reductions."