EPI releases report highlighting positive impact of Medicaid for Rhode Islanders and the economy

The Economic Progress Institute (EPI) previewed its latest report today at a press conference at the Rhode Island State House. Medicaid Matters in Rhode Island 2018 provides information about the breadth and scope of the Medicaid program in the Ocean State. The report includes stories from Rhode Islanders for whom Medicaid provides access to health care and services, including those that support seniors and people with disabilities to live safely at home and in their communities.

“We published this report to help policy makers and the public have a better understanding of the Medicaid program which is the largest source of federal funds in our state budget and a significant investment of state general revenue dollars”, said Linda Katz, EPI Policy Director. “We hope readers will see the benefit of this state investment by absorbing the stories that beneficiaries share in the report, learning about the different populations of Rhode Islanders for whom Medicaid is a lifeline, and realizing the ways that Medicaid dollars support our health care infrastructure, our economy and our cities and towns.”

Vincent Dejesus, a local resident disabled after brain tumor surgery twenty years ago, explained that Medicaid pays for a personal care attendant to help him with the daily living activities he is unable to accomplish on his own. “Medicaid matters to me,” said Dejesus, “because it gives me the ability to live in my community and provides the assistance I need to be independent. Without Medicaid my quality of life would be very different. I currently work two days a week, but my biggest goal is to find a full time job.”

Medicaid provides access to health care and long term care services as needed to 153,000 low income children, parents and pregnant women through the RIte Care program. Thirty-two thousand adults with disabilities, 19,000 seniors, and 12,000 children with special health care needs are also enrolled. In January 2014, Rhode Island opened the Medicaid door to low-income adults without children, as authorized under the Affordable Care Act. Over 65,000 adults gained coverage as a result.

Sara Braganca was a beneficiary of Medicaid expansion. She enrolled in Medicaid in 2016, after she was laid off from her job and lost her health insurance coverage. Diagnosed with colon cancer, Sara went through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery over the course of a year. Medicaid covered these expenses. “The freedom to focus on my health needs to get the best possible outcome, without having to second guess whether I could afford it was huge”, said Braganca. “Medicaid matters because it saves people’s lives. It saved mine.”

Cristina Amedeo, Managing Director at United 2-1-1, spoke in her professional capacity and as a caring citizen and mom. “From the calls we get at 2-1-1, we know how important Medicaid is to so many Rhode Islanders, especially to seniors and people with disabilities, many of whom also have Medicare coverage. Medicaid fills in the gaps for services that Medicare doesn’t cover, like long term care,” said Amedeo.

From personal experience, Amedeo addressed how Medicaid supplements her commercial insurance, providing her son, Alex, with the therapies and services he needs to succeed. Alex was born with a rare medical condition that required him to have three major surgeries and other procedures before the age of two. Although his physical health improved, his speech and social skills declined. “Medicaid helped connect our family to broader support networks in the community – other moms and dads – through programs like the Autism Project,” said Amedeo. “It’s done more than just pay providers, it provides coordination of care and wrap around services and programs that have helped Alex and our family to thrive.”

“Proposed cuts to Medicaid in this year’s budget and the continued threat to Medicaid at the federal level make this report timely and relevant”, said Karen Malcolm, organizer for the Protect Our Health Care Coalition. “Talking to so many different people to collect stories and reading the data presented in this report underscores how vital the Medicaid program is to the health of our residents and our state. “We must work together to ensure that our state continues to make necessary investments and that the federal government remains a strong partner in meeting the health care needs of all Rhode Islanders.”

From the Providence Journal: “On the same day Medicaid beneficiaries gathered at the State House in support of the program, [Rhode Island Governor Gina] Raimondo’s communications director, Mike Raia, told The Providence Journal Tuesday that her ‘administration will request that funding be restored to avoid charging Medicaid customers a co-pay.’”