In 1992, Linda Garcia’s son tried to commit suicide and was taken to a hospital. He couldn’t get treatment because she didn’t have health insurance. He subsequently died.

Today, she works as a pediatric home health nurse in San Antonio and watches other families struggling with the same life-threatening problem.

“I’ve seen children who have been denied medicine, denied their own home ventilators because Medicaid couldn’t pay for it,” Garcia said. “What I’m seeing in San Antonio is people who die because they didn’t have access to medication. Some tell me they have to choose between food or medicine because their insurance doesn’t cover it.”

Garcia and 70 other San Antonians joined about a thousand health care advocates at the Texas Capitol on Monday to rally against the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which would likely implement massive cuts to Medicaid through block grants or per capita caps. Advocates also protested the Texas Senate budget proposal, arguing it underfunds Medicaid by at least $1.9 million and does not reverse the $350 million Medicaid therapy cuts for children with disabilities.

The rally was organized by Cover Texas Now, a coalition of advocacy groups from all over Texas that are fighting against the ACA repeal plan. The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee will hold a full committee markup of the legislation without hearings on Wednesday. Part of the repeal plan includes huge cuts to Medicaid for kids, seniors, pregnant women and people with disabilities, advocates said.

“The idea that (Medicaid) would be slashed, that we would balance the budget on the backs of those poor individuals is wrong and we must keep saying it’s wrong,” U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, said.

Dr. Rodolfo Urby, vice-president of Doctors for Social Responsibility, a group of San Antonio physicians advocating for health care for the poor, said that federal proposals of block grants and per capita caps as part of the ACA repeal will not be enough to cover the cost of care.

Under block grants or per capita caps, Congress would predetermine the amount of money each state receives based on historic Medicaid enrollment and spending. States would no longer be guaranteed federal funding for the actual costs of their Medicaid programs, according to a study by the Manatt Health for the Texas Alliance for Health Care.

Researchers also found that Texas would likely take a worse hit than other states under block grants because it has relatively low eligibility levels and did not add parents with incomes below 15 percent of the federal poverty level and childless adults to Medicaid under the ACA.

“States will have to cover the balance, reduce benefits, cap annual benefits or reduce the number of people that are actually enrolled in Medicaid,” Urby said. “These are disastrous options.”

This story was published in the San Antonio Express-News March 6, 2017. 

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