U.S. debt deal spares Medicaid, leaves cuts on table

Search Dental Tribune

U.S. debt deal spares Medicaid, leaves cuts on table

Morning clouds gather over Capital Hill. The House of Representatives has approved a new debt deal on Monday that does not involve cuts in Medicaid. (DTI/Photo Songquan Deng, USA)
Daniel Zimmermann, DTI

Daniel Zimmermann, DTI

Tue. 2 August 2011


NEW YORK, N.Y., USA: Health and dental care benefits for the poor will not see a reduction, as U.S. President Obama and members of Congress agreed to keep their hands off Medicaid in a deal agreed to by both parties on Monday to raise the country’s increasing debt limit. The agreement, which also includes the formation of a bipartisan congressional committee to recommend further cuts in federal spending, however, could target social benefit programs later this year.

The last minute deal, ending six months of negotiations, aims to cut more than US$2 trillion from federal spending to raise the current U.S. debt limit from US$14.3 trillion in order to keep the government operational at least until the end of 2012.

While Democrats pushed for tax hikes and defense cuts during the negotiations, Republicans proposed rolling back spending on a number of social security programs, including Medicaid, the country’s healthcare benefit program for the poor.

Currently, over 50 million people or one sixth of the total U.S. population is enrolled in some form of Medicaid, the latest figures from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Commission on Medicaid suggest. Twenty-five million children are receiving healthcare through the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment Program that also includes preventative and restorative dental treatment.

Demand for the scheme has increased significantly since 2007 owing to the recession and rise in unemployment.

“We will need to review the details of the debt agreement, but are encouraged by initial reports that Medicaid is not one of the major targets of spending cuts,” a speaker of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry told Dental Tribune ONLINE on Monday. “The AAPD advocates for adequate funding for the Medicaid dental program for children of low-income families.”

Experts said that more cuts in the joint federal-–state systems could mean another setback for the program that has seen a lack of investment and interest from healthcare providers for years. Just recently, a study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia found that less than 10 percent of dentists in the state of Illinois declined to offer emergency dental care to children even if they were enrolled in the program.

Eligibility levels could also be tightened, as less government funding over the next few years would place greater financial burden on U.S. states


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *