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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Medicaid Cuts Could Leave Hundreds of Thousands of Illinoisans Facing Life-Threatening Health Challenges

Report Details Number of Illinoisans with Cancer, Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes, and Chronic Lung Disease Who Depend on Medicaid for Treatment

Cuts to Medicaid would pose a specific and dangerous threat to hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans who depend on the program for regular treatment for such medical conditions as cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease, heart disease, and stroke. Without Medicaid, many of these seriously ill Illinoisans would no longer be able to fill essential prescriptions, keep up with key screenings, or see a doctor if their condition worsens or recurs.

The importance of Medicaid to Illinoisans is detailed in a report released jointly today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association, and the health care consumer group Families USA.

Hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans are covered by Medicaid. Of this number:
  • An estimated 23,760 Illinoisans with Medicaid have cancer, including 1,000 children, 15,780 adults, and 6,980 seniors;
  • An estimated 97,170 Illinoisans with Medicaid have diabetes, including 7,360 children, 64,490 adults, and 25,320 seniors;
  • An estimated 263,750 Illinoisans with Medicaid have chronic lung diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis, including 146,650 children, 100,610 adults, and 16,480 seniors; 
  • An estimated 243,990 Illinoisans with Medicaid have heart disease or stroke, including 23,540 children, 164,600 adults, and 55,850 seniors.
Although Illinois directly administers its own Medicaid program, every dollar the state spends for health coverage for low-income individuals is matched dollar-for-dollar by the federal government. Particularly during difficult economic times, this federal match helps Illinois to provide health coverage for hundreds of thousands of residents.

The treatment of chronic and life-threatening diseases can be extremely costly, and people with these illnesses often become eligible for Medicaid when they have exhausted all their financial resources paying for medical care. As an example, the average hospital charge nationally for a stay associated with a heart attack is nearly $63,000, and for people with no health insurance or with inadequate coverage, such costs can quickly drive them into poverty and qualification for Medicaid.

“Hard-working Americans with diseases such as cancer can get health coverage through Medicaid after having lost their health insurance because they are too ill to work or run through their savings,” said Christopher Hansen, President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “This program is a safety net for American families, and losing access to the program could force them to stop treatment that could save their lives.”

“Diabetes has a disproportionate impact on the Medicaid population, because Medicaid provides important health coverage to people facing elevated health risks. Children and adults eligible for this valuable program are more likely to be in poor health and thus require the services Medicaid provides to a greater extent than individuals with private insurance,” said Gina Gavlak, RN, BSN, Vice Chair of the National Advocacy Committee, American Diabetes Association. “Cuts to Medicaid funding would be harmful to the millions of children, pregnant women, and adults with diabetes who rely on the program to manage their disease and avoid dangerous and costly diabetes complications such as blindness, amputations, and kidney dialysis.”

“Medicaid is the lifeline for millions of children, adults, and seniors who suffer from chronic lung disease such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis,” said Paul Billings, Vice President of National Policy and Advocacy for the American Lung Association. “If denied this critical healthcare coverage, it will result in higher healthcare costs, such as increased emergency room visits. We need to set politics aside and protect the health of our nation’s most vulnerable population, particularly our children, who will be most impacted by cuts to Medicaid.”

“Medicaid is a program that works and a program that provides urgently needed care to hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois suffering from serious but controllable diseases. It helps Illinois children get a healthier start in life and school, it helps to maintain a healthy Illinois workforce, and it helps head off medical debt, a leading cause of bankruptcies and home foreclosures,” Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, said today. “It should be crystal clear that with rising health care costs hurting family pocketbooks and with the economic downturn driving more families to depend on Medicaid, that this is precisely the wrong time to cut Medicaid funding to Illinois and other states.”

Families USA contracted with The Lewin Group to develop the estimates in this report.

Dave Lemmon, Families USA, 202-628-3030
Alissa Havens, Anerican Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Christine Fehely, American Diabetes Association
Mary Havell, American Lung Association

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