Medicaid coverage in jeopardy

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

By Maryann "Miki" Gudermuth

and Ron Pilz

This year, more than in previous years, the elderly and persons with disabilities would be hit hard by changes in the Medicaid spend-down policy under House Bill 1111, which awaits Gov. Bob Holden's signature or veto.

If approved by Holden, beginning Oct. 1 seniors, people with disabilities and all others on Medicaid spend-down would not be allowed to incur expenses. They would be forced to pay all medical expenses out of pocket (including medicine) until their spend-down amount has been spent.

An example of this would be if an individual earns $1,000 each month. His spend-down amount would be $455 a month.

Currently, this individual would be allowed to keep the entire $1,000 income each month and charge $455 in Medicaid-eligible medical expenses, which the state would pay for.

Under rules that would take effect Oct. 1 under HB 1111, the individual would lose the ability to incur expenses until he has spent all income down to $545 each month, entailing a cut of $455 in the individual's monthly income. The individual would be forced to choose between spending down to the $545 poverty-level amount or paying for food and rent and doing without medicine.

Even with the state's new SenioRx program, which affects only the elderly, there is a deductible to be met, and 40 percent of the cost of medicine still incurs a burden when $545 is all that is left month to month. Remember, these individuals are on fixed incomes.

If the governor were to veto HB 1111, it would allow the measure to carry over to the next legislative session, providing time to look at the whole picture with compassion and the opportunity to institute measures that would not cause unnecessary hardship on those who are already burdened by the costs associated with age and disability. We cannot and should not allow this to happen to family members, friends, neighbors and, possibly one day, ourselves.

All of us rally around issues involving children and family abuse. What more abuse can we as a society place on our elderly and disabled population than to cast them aside without a second look at a very quality-of-life-threatening situation?

Let is each pay forward by protecting the rights of our senior population and people with disabilities. We urge you to contact our governor to reinstate the incurred expenses for Medicaid coverage.

The life you care for now could one day be your own.

Maryann "Miki" Gudermuth is with SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence Inc. in Cape Girardeau. Ron Pilz is president of AARP chapter 4041 in Cape Girardeau County.

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