The children of Flint were poisoned. They consumed dangerous levels of lead as a direct result of a philosophy that government should run like a business without considering the impact of its decisions on the people it was designed to serve.
In order to make Michigan’s books balance, the safety of children was ignored. State officials initially
rejected the emerging evidence establishing the dangerous level of lead in Flint’s water. They refused to believe any information that suggested that they had made a mistake. They discounted and ultimately lied about the lead-laced water.
That study used data from a Medicaid program, was called the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment, (EPSDT) initiative. EPSDT pays for extra medical testing for low-income children. The resulting data base supplied the necessary information for the study. As Dr. Hanna-Attisha said, “Without that data, I have no idea where we would be.”
The importance of Medicaid in helping the people of Flint did not stop there. Because of a special waiver that Gov. Snyder’s people sought after the crisis became public, Medicaid provides medical services for any child in a Flint household with incomes up to four times the poverty line. It also offers what Dr. Hanna-Attisha calls “Medicaid on steroids” — counselors who can coordinate the mental and physical health services for kids exposed to the water.
Medicaid in Danger
Unfortunately, the help that these children are receiving is in danger. The effort in the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would eliminate Medicaid coverage for the children of Flint. You may have read that the effort to repeal Medicaid is over.
Don’t believe it.
No vote has been taken and those who want to eliminate Medicaid will not stop trying. Just this week the new budget proposal offered by the leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives calls for its elimination. Cutting Medicaid would remove around $772 billion in health coverage over the next decade according to the Congressional Budget Office.
In Michigan, the state House of Representatives is considering a bill, HB 4598, that would end new Medicaid enrollment starting October 1, 2017. The Speaker of the House Tom Leonard said in an email that he supports the concept. This state endeavor
to end Medicaid is separate and apart from the national effort. If either succeeds, children who need health coverage will not receive it.
The ongoing threat to the children of Flint doesn’t end with failure of the effort to repeal The Affordable Care Act.
Call your legislators, both state and federal, and tell them we owe a debt to those children. Tell them to stop trying to end Medicaid.
This blog posting was first published in Deadline Detroit. Reprinted with permission.