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Americans across the political spectrum view Medicaid positively, and are opposed to proposals to cut funding for the program or to scale back the coverage it offers.  Health care providers in southern Illinois view Medicaid as vital to the region.

Life Care Planning, Estate Protection, Disability,
VA & Medicaid Assistance Lawyers

Health Care Safety Net Vital To Region

Health Care Safety Net Vital To Region


            Americans across the political spectrum view Medicaid positively, and are opposed to proposals to cut funding for the program or to scale back the coverage it offers.  Health care providers in southern Illinois view Medicaid as vital to the region.


            In a report of a national survey of the public's views about Medicaid, published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly three-quarters (74%) of adults say Medicaid is a "very important" government program.  This ranks it close to Social Security (88%) and Medicare (83%) and significantly above defense and military spending (57%).  Approximately eight in ten Democrats (81%) and Independents (79%) view Medicaid as important, while fewer, but still six in ten (61%), Republicans expressed the same view.


            Two-thirds of the public think their state has major budget problems.  Despite these concerns, a substantial majority of Americans (74%) are opposed to cutting Medicaid to balance state budgets.  While eighty-one percent of Democrats and seventy-five percent of Independents oppose cutting back the Medicaid program in order to help balance their state budgets, sixty-five percent of Republicans also oppose budget-balancing cuts in the Medicaid program.


            A significant majority think the federal government should maintain (44%) or increase (36%) federal spending for Medicaid.  Only slightly more than one in ten (12%) believe federal funding for Medicaid should be cut.


            The Vice-President and Director of Public Opinion and Media Research for the foundation, Mollyann Brodie, Ph.D., stated that "We expected Medicaid to be relatively unpopular with the public, much like welfare was."  Ms. Brodie went on to say "But we found that Medicaid ranks closer to popular programs like Medicare and Social Security in the public's mind.  The fact that so many Americans have had some kind of contact with Medicaid themselves or through family and friends is one factor that could help explain this result."


            Indeed, more than half (56%) of Americans report that they have had some interaction with Medicaid, either having enrolled in the program themselves or through a friend or family member who received health care coverage or long-term care (e.g., in a nursing home).  Additionally, nearly eight in ten (78%) of Americans responded that they would enroll in Medicaid if they needed health care and qualified for the program. These findings held true across the political spectrum.


            When asked what they believed the repercussions would be if the states were forced to cut spending for Medicaid to balance their budgets, seven in ten (73%) said they believed people who had Medicaid would no longer get all of the health care services they needed.  Nearly six in ten (57%) believed that the responsibility for health care would be shifted to county or city governments, while four in ten (44%) expressed the view that people would get care but that doctors and hospitals would not get paid.


            To view a book of charts (23 pages, PDF) compiled from survey results, go to


            In southern Illinois, some health care providers view Medicaid as both a blessing and a curse. Tom Firestone, MD of Southern Illinois Healthcare said Medicaid is "the safety net for care, especially for women and children.  However many [healthcare] providers are really irked at the state right now."  Dr. Firestone went on to say that Medicaid pays less than the amount it costs to provide health care services and then delays payments so that providers have a tough time financially.  Dr. Firestone expressed the view that "most healthcare providers feel it is their social obligation to provide care, but other [providers] refuse to do so" because of the insufficient and extremely slow Medicaid payments.


            Over the course of the last year or so, the press in southern Illinois has reported that some nursing homes have been forced to close due to the long delays in receiving Medicaid payment for the cost of care provided to their disabled and elderly residents.


            Since the demographic numbers of the poor and elderly are high in southern Illinois, Medicaid has a substantial impact on the health care delivery system and the long term care industry in southern Illinois.  If the state is not paying health care providers an amount that at least covers the cost of providing the services, then it is little wonder that some health care providers refuse to provide services or that some nursing homes have been forced to close their doors.  If the state is not paying its bills on time, then the state is basically forcing hospitals, doctors, nursing homes, and other providers to give it a short term loan to balance its "check book."  On the other hand, if Medicaid is eliminated or radically reduced, as has been proposed by some, then a source of payment for services is eliminated or reduced which will adversely impact not just patients but also service providers in the region.


            As we learned during the debate over the medical malpractice issue, health care is vital to this region.  The loss of a single physician impacts us all, for it impacts the health care system.  Similarly, the loss or reduction in the means of paying for health care provided to the disabled and elderly will impact us all, for it will impact the health care system.  We all breathe the same air. We all drink the same water. We all must rely on the same health care system.


            Dr. Firestone put it this way: "The critical issue for Medicaid is to make access to care available. . . The ranks of people on Medicaid continue to increase as more people lose their jobs and benefits. It is vital to the region that this program be healthy and strong."


            Richard Habiger is an elder law attorney.  You may contact him at 618-549-4529 or