Health Editor’s Note: VP Pence has not heard of cuts to Medicaid. That sounds about right and one of the reasons that health care in the U.S. is sorely lacking. The government does not care. Why should they? They all have paid health insurance. Be sure to check out the video…Carol
ER Doc Confronts VP Pence on Medicaid Block Grants
by MedPageStaff Writer,
An emergency physician from Michigan ran into Vice President Mike Pence in an Iowa diner Thursday and pressed him on how the newly announced Medicaid block grant program would affect patients across the country — and didn’t let up when Pence fumbled for an answer.
Pence greeted Rob Davidson, MD, in Des Moines for a rally on behalf of Medicare, and a colleague as they were seated at a table. Pence was presumably in town to support his boss, President Trump, who was holding his own rally there that evening.
“My patients depend on expanded Medicaid, so how is that going to affect my patients?” Davidson asked Pence in a video that went viral on Twitter.
“I hadn’t heard about cuts to Medicaid,” Pence responded. [Earlier on Thursday, the Trump administration unveiled a waiver program under which states could request Medicaid funding in the form of block grants.] He then referenced Medicaid expansion during his time as governor of Indiana under the Affordable Care Act.
Davidson replied that expanding Medicaid is “great,” but the administration’s move will have the effect of “contracting” it.
In an interview with MedPage Today, Davidson said he thought the Vice President was “fully aware of what transpired [Thursday] with Medicaid.” Davidson added that he thought the Vice President was not prepared to talk about how cutting these federal programs would impact patient care.
The Trump administration proposed a plan Thursday that would allow states to apply for Medicaid block grants, fixed funding for the federal healthcare program. Currently, there are no caps on the amount of Medicaid funding that the federal government can provide to states. The administration’s proposal would give states the choice of getting a fixed amount of Medicaid funding from the federal government, or a per-capita amount — a set payment for each individual enrolled in the program.
While supporters of the plan say that it would allow states more flexibility over how they administer Medicaid funding, critics including Davidson think that it would allow states to exclude vulnerable populations from affordable healthcare.
“It’s basically cutting costs so the federal government can spend less money in the states,” Davidson said. He added that cuts to Medicaid have the potential to affect patients who need necessary treatments, such as chemotherapy, or access to affordable transportation to appointments. Davidson also said that changes to cost-sharing models for Medicaid recipients may result in some patients skipping doctor’s visits to save on co-pays.
“Every shift here, at least one patient tells me that some aspect of my plan of care for them isn’t something they’re prepared to do because of the cost,” Davidson said. What struck him the most about his encounter with the Vice President, Davidson said, is the disconnect between elected officials and the issues that affect patients across the country.
He noted that during his 20 years in medicine, he has been frustrated by the cost barriers that patients face, including the expenses of necessary medications such as insulin, or costs that come with medical appointments. Davidson turned to healthcare advocacy as a way to support affordable care for patients, he said.
Davidson, a Democrat who ran for a House seat in Michigan in 2018, serves as the executive director for an advocacy group called the Committee to Protect Medicare and Affordable Care. The group has organized more than 250 physicians across 26 states, he said, and aims to hold elected officials accountable for policies that affect healthcare.
He said he hopes that his run-in with the Vice President will inspire more physicians to join the healthcare advocacy movement: “We all swear an oath when we graduate medical school to do no harm, but unfortunately, the system that we’re working in is set up to harm so many people,” Davidson said. “We’re trusted voices in healthcare. I think we have to step out of our comfort level and do the hard work to get policies to change.”