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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why Gene Sperling’s Address to Health Action was a Big Deal

Ben D'Avanzo

Special Projects Manager

For many of us, the budget battles seem to be endless and without progress, yet advocates for Medicaid should know that their voices are being heard. The clearest sign yet came from White House economic policy adviser Gene Sperling’s speech at Health Action 2013.

The effort to ensure that Medicaid is able to serve lower-income Americans who need it is being fought at two levels. At the state level, governors are considering whether or not to expand the program as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act. At the federal level, the deficit fights have led to some proposals, notably the House Republican budgets for the last two years, to slash funding to the program well below the level it needs to serve even the current beneficiaries.

Last Thursday, while speaking to advocates at Health Action, Gene Sperling made it clear why these two battles are inexorably tied together. Take a moment to watch what Sperling had to say:
 

 

In the strongest statement yet from the White House, Sperling affirmed that Medicaid is totally off the table in negotiations over deficit reduction. It was a sign that the Administration has heard what advocates have been saying throughout this budget mess—any cuts to Medicaid are simply balancing the budget on the backs of kids, people with disabilities, and seniors.

And, as Sperling indicated, his assurance that no cuts to Medicaid are acceptable has implications for the expansion as well. Many governors have been using the budget battles as an excuse not to expand. While the government is offering them a great deal, 100% of the expansion paid for at the federal level for the first three years and never less than 90% of it covered thereafter, governors point to the numerous proposals to cut Medicaid. Why should we expand, they’ve said, only to have the financial burden pushed onto us soon after? Well, now they have no excuse: The White House has made clear that Medicaid cuts are off the table and no costs will be shifted to states.

So take this message from the White House as a sign to keep on pushing, both to protect Medicaid from budget cuts and to expand it in the states!