Federal/State Tensions in Fulfilling Medicaid’s Purpose
23 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2012 Last revised: 19 Aug 2013
Date Written: April 23, 2012
Medicaid has been subject to reconsiderations of the proper role of government in providing for the health and welfare of populations over recent decades. Over the last decade in particular, a number of states have transferred many functions that they once performed to private entities, including, in a number of cases, express policymaking functions. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) takes some crucial steps towards readjusting the equilibrium of Medicaid. Rather than further prioritizing the market in its reforms, it gives the federal government stronger charge of Medicaid policy, refocusing the program more directly on expanding eligibility and providing secure care for beneficiaries in the process. I argue that this reprioritization is in better keeping with the purpose of Medicaid, in contradistinction to the market-driven reforms undertaken during the Bush administration and sought by some states today. It does, however, shift more power from the states to the federal government. This has raised concerns not only from states that oppose the new health reform law, but also from a number that support it. These two groups of states share a desire for greater flexibility in their Medicaid programs than the ACA permits. Yet only one of these groups should be permitted to use federal Medicaid funds to make the reforms they seek. Federal administrations need to be particularly careful, when considering whether to grant state Medicaid waiver requests, to uphold Medicaid’s purpose of giving lower-income Americans genuine access to the same health care that other Americans receive.
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