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Arizonans with disabilities stand to lose most from federal Medicaid cuts

In this March 8, 2019 file photo, President Donald Trump talks with reporters outside the White House in Washington. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised not to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. In the White House, Trump went back on his promise not to cut Medicaid. Now he’s being criticized for steep Medicare payment cuts to hospitals in his new budget. The head of a major hospital association says in a blog that the impact on care for seniors would be “devastating.” The White House says it’s not cutting Medicare but making better use of taxpayers’ dollars. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

PHOENIX — In early March, the Trump Administration proposed budget cuts to federally funded Medicaid programs and some Arizona disability advocates believe the state could be hit the hardest if the budget passes.

Jon Meyers with the Arc of Arizona told KTAR News 92.3 FM that, if approved, these cuts would greatly impact the day-to-day life of people with disabilities.

“The proposed cuts would eliminate a number of services that people with disabilities and other Medicaid recipients rely on for really, basic life functions,” Meyers said.

These services not only include direct medical needs such as medication but state councils on developmental disabilities, living programs and respite care as well.

Currently, the federal government matches state Medicaid funding – regardless of cost. The new budget proposal would only provide state with fixed grant money, known as block granting, based on federal government per-capita capping.

Meyers says this is particularly troublesome for Arizona’s Medicaid program, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, AHCCCS

“[Block granting] would do even greater damage to us in Arizona than they would do to people in many other states,” he said. “And that’s because the Medicaid system in Arizona is so efficient and so effective right now. The system in Arizona is a model for other systems in other states.”

Meyers added that this particular method would cause serious state funding issues.

“AHCCCS is literally one of the best Medicaid systems in the country. To transition to block grants or per capita caps would actually reduce funding to AHCCCS, would further disadvantage people who are already among the most vulnerable and would cause our system to degrade.”

However, it’s not just those reliant on AHCCCS and Medicaid who stand to be impacted. Meyers says a large portion of AHCCCS goes to maintenance and preventative care, which is far less costly than the alternative.

“If we don’t care for the most vulnerable people in our society – the people who have the greatest need and are at the greatest risk – we are going to create a public health crisis that is almost unimaginable.”

Meyers said that the emergency services and routine services that would go unreimbursed should the cuts pass, would cost far more than the current funding for Medicaid in place.

“They are receiving those services in a very efficient and effective way and they are benefiting from it, society at large is benefiting from it and our society works much better when we provide what they need.”

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