We Still Need a Health Safety Net

During the pandemic, states were federally mandated to forgo the screening process of eligibility for Medicaid, the U.S. program that provides healthcare coverage for about 85 million people, including many low-income families, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities, among others. This provided some health care for people who couldn’t get it before. But Covid also meant that many lost work and subsequently lost healthcare coverage. It seemed pretty obvious that during a pandemic, having health care for all was a matter of public health. It seems obvious after the pandemic that we still need healthcare for everyone.

But state governments are now rolling back the extended Medicaid benefits. A bipartisan agreement in Congress last December ended the mandatory expansion of Medicare on April 1, 2023. Congress gave 12 months for states to re-establish the screening process for eligibility. Many state governments have jumped at the chance to cut people off. Up to 15 million people are set to lose healthcare coverage. It seems the process in many states will not only remove people who only needed coverage during the pandemic, but others as well. Several million people who are eligible may lose coverage and need to re-apply. This may cause much disease due to people delaying care, not keeping up with preventative screenings, and forgoing prescription refills, which all may lead to more emergency room visits.

This program isn’t the only one being cut now. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which provides food assistance, cut off tens of millions on March 1.

The safety net established during the pandemic is unraveling with nothing in its place. But not because we don’t need healthcare. The people in power keep pouring taxpayers’ money into a bloated military and into greedy banks that can’t stay afloat, but not into things that the Ninety-Nine Percent need, like public health.