Obamacare Medicaid expansion is causing more disabled people to die on waitlists, new report says

Obamacare Medicaid expansion is causing more disabled people to die on waitlists, new report says
Health care activists participate in a rally in front of the Capitol March 22, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. New research from the Foundation for Government Accountability asserts that Medicaid expansion has been harmful to recipients with disabilities who are placed on long waiting lists. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Medicaid expansion under Obamacare has contributed to bloated enrollment waiting lists for disabled individuals, according to a new report. Many of those on the lists die waiting as funding goes toward coverage for thousands of able-bodied — and sometimes fraudulent — Medicaid recipients, the Foundation for Government Accountability said.

The research focused on individuals who receive home and community-based, or HBCS, waivers. These are people with severe intellectual or mental disabilities, brain or spinal cord injuries, and other debilitating conditions.

States can limit enrollment into the HCBS waiver program, and once the cap is reached, individuals get placed on waiting lists — where they may be waiting for years to receive care for their disabilities without being institutionalized.

Nicholas Horton, research director for the FGA, said the funding that Medicaid expansion has funneled toward able-bodied, non-working recipients causes states to limit the number of HCBS waivers, which causes the long waits for those disabled patients.

“The caps are essentially the result of insufficient funding,” Horton told TheBlaze. “So instead of spending resources to help these truly needy individuals, states are spending money on Medicaid for able-bodied adults. That’s a decision they’re making to spend money on people without disabilities instead of helping people on the waiting list.”

By the numbers

  • More than 650,000 people are on Medicaid waiting lists nationwide
  • At least 21,904 people have died on waiting lists in Medicaid expansion states since Obamacare was implemented
  • More than 28 million able-bodied adults are now enrolled in Medicaid, and most states do not have work requirements for those people

The paper acknowledges that Obamacare did not create the waiting list problem, but asserts that it increases the likelihood that disabled individuals don’t get the treatment they need.

Losing sight of the goal

Horton argues that his research shows that Medicaid has lost focus on its original goal of focusing on “truly vulnerable” patients and has morphed into a “catch-all, open-ended welfare program” that has gone over budget in numerous states and is riddled with fraud.

“You’ve got states spending money on individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid,” Horton said. “Recently in my home state of Arkansas, we removed 80,000 individuals from Medicaid who didn’t qualify. 25,000 of them were getting Medicaid benefits in more than one state. So they were taking resources that could’ve gone to the truly needy in more than one state.”

Potential solutions

Horton proposes a three-step approach to correcting these issues:

  • Stop Medicaid expansion by freezing enrollment;
  • Implement work requirements for all able-bodied Medicaid enrollees; and
  • Attack welfare fraud by removing regulations that limit how frequently states can check eligibility for Medicaid.

You can read the paper in full here.