An intern in the Naval Medical Center San Diego Graduate Medical Education program examines a newborn baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. One in every two pregnant women uses Medicaid to pay hospital bills after she gives birth. [U.S. Navy Photo]

Orwellian Language Can’t Hide What Republicans Are Trying to Do to Medicaid

More than 50 years ago, when Medicaid was created, Congress made a smart decision and designed the program so that if and when health care costs rise, or the economy starts to struggle, Medicaid would be there for the American people, no matter what.

Now, the counselor to the President says that, as part of the replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid will be converted into block grants.

People like grants, and they like Medicaid, which means that this proposal, on the surface, sounds find — even smart.

Senator Brian Schatz speaks about proposed cuts to Medicaid on the Senate floor January 24, 2017.

The term “block grants” is s a euphemism. It’s not quite a lie, but it’s a way to describe something so that you don’t know what it is. Republicans are calling it a block grant, because they don’t want to say they’re cutting Medicaid. And these cuts will hurt millions of people.

They will hurt working families, who rely on Medicaid to pay for nursing home care for their family.

There’s a perception that Medicaid only helps poor people. As important as that is, this program also acts as a critical social safety net that allows families to live their golden years with dignity.

But who can pay for that care out of pocket? It’s too expensive. In Hawaii, nursing home care can cost over $10,000 a month. Very few people in this country can afford those costs without support from Medicaid.

These cuts will hurt women, who need Medicaid for maternal health services, as well as seniors and people with disabilities. These people have nowhere else to turn. Medicaid is their only option.

Some people point to expanded local control as a reason to move forward with block grants. But the truth is that block grants give states less control, forcing them to choose between seniors, kids, and people with disabilities. Or between health care and education.

Americans voters — whether they are left, right, or center — have seen that in Washington, we say one thing and do another. We’ve earned that reputation.

This is a deal breaker for me and many others, and it will be a disaster for millions of Americans. That’s why today, we have to stand up — for seniors, for women, for children — and fight any cuts to Medicaid.

U.S. Senator from Hawaii