President Trump and the Republicans in Congress are looking at the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as a chance to radically overhaul Medicaid. The Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would fundamentally overhaul Medicaid by shifting the program to a per capita cap system. This means states would receive a fixed amount of Medicaid funding per enrollee, as opposed to the open-ended federal support they receive currently. Cardiac Surgeon Mark Lupinetti is one Maine physician who is speaking out against these proposed slashes to Medicaid funding.
Dr. Lupinetti vividly remembers one patient who was transferred to his hospital from a smaller, rural facility after suffering a massive heart attack. The patient required immediate heart surgery, so Lupinetti did not have an opportunity to speak with him until the recovery period.
“I learned that the patient had been experiencing chest pains for two years. He knew that there was probably something wrong with his heart, but was waiting until he turned 65 to seek medical care, as he had just lost his job at the mill and with it his insurance. He had the heart attack just several months before his 65th birthday. He survived, but his heart will never be the same. Patients like this are at risk for premature death,” explained Lupinetti. This patient’s story is a cautionary tale of what happens when Medicaid eligibility is restricted and Mainers go uninsured.
Although Medicaid is most commonly known as a health insurance program for low-income and needy people, more than 80% of Medicaid spending goes to care for children, the elderly and the disabled, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. If enacted, AHCA would strip over $800 billion from the program, leaving millions of vulnerable Americans at risk of losing coverage. It would also force states to pick up the tab for spending on our elderly, kids, and disabled Mainers.
Dr. Lupinetti is concerned that if the proposed cuts to Medicaid are enacted, smaller rural hospitals may have to close their doors. He explains that hospitals are hurt when patients do not have insurance, adding that only half of hospitals in Maine made a profit last year- the rest are in the red. “This heart attack patient was stabilized in a rural hospital and may not have survived, if that hospital did not exist,” said Lupinetti.