Medicaid Cuts Could Leave Millions of Black and Latino Americans Without

By  | 

Washington, D.C. — October 13, 2011 -

Cuts to Medicaid would pose a specific and dangerous threat to millions of black and Latino Americans who depend on the program for regular treatment for such medical conditions as cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease, heart disease, and stroke. Without Medicaid, many of these seriously-ill Americans would no longer be able to fill essential prescriptions, keep up with key screenings, or see a doctor if their condition worsens or reoccurs.

The importance of Medicaid to the black and Latino communities, as well as the heavy burden of chronic disease borne by these groups, is documented in a detailed report, “Medicaid: A Lifeline for Blacks and Latinos with Serious Health Care Needs,” which was released today.

The report was released jointly by the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the National Medical Association, the National Urban League Policy Institute, and Families USA.

The report also provides state-specific data for blacks and Latinos who rely on Medicaid and suffer from conditions such as cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and heart disease and stroke.

The report finds that among African Americans:

* More than one in five individuals with cancer—21.9 percent, an estimated 141,000—relies on Medicaid for their treatment.

* Nearly one in four African Americans with diabetes—24.4 percent, nearly 778,000 people—relies on Medicaid coverage.

* Well over one-third of the black community with chronic lung disease—37.0 percent, more than 1.4 million individuals—are covered by Medicaid.

* More than one in five African Americans suffering from heart disease or stroke—21.6 percent, or nearly 1.9 million people—count on Medicaid for their medical treatment.

Just as in the black community, Medicaid provides health coverage for a significant portion of the Latino community with chronic diseases:

* Nearly one in four Latinos with cancer—24.5 percent, or nearly 105,000—relies on Medicaid.

* More than one-quarter of the Latino community living with diabetes—25.6 percent, more than 692,000 people—rely on Medicaid coverage.

* Nearly two in five Latinos with chronic lung disease—39.8 percent, or nearly 1.4 million people—are covered by Medicaid.

* Nearly one-quarter of the community being treated for heart disease or stroke—23.2 percent, or more than 1.4 million individuals—rely on Medicaid for that treatment.

The report notes that, because blacks and Latinos tend to have lower incomes than whites, they are more than twice as likely to rely on Medicaid for health care coverage. In addition, Medicaid helps roughly half of all black and Latino children get a healthy start in life, and it helps black and Latino seniors and people with disabilities who need long-term care.

Today’s report seeks to make clear that Medicaid provides life-or-death health coverage for millions of Americans. In addition, it demonstrates that making cuts to the Medicaid program doesn’t reduce medical costs; instead, it merely shifts those costs—to states, to families, to hospitals, and ultimately to people with insurance. In some cases, the report notes, cutting assistance for treatment increases costs over the long run.

“There are critical disparities in the delivery of health care to black and Latino communities, which contributes to a higher incidence and greater severity of chronic and serious health conditions in those communities,” Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, said today. “That medical reality, combined with the fact that these communities tend to have lower incomes, means that Medicaid is a vital lifeline in protecting the health and well-being of these Americans.”

“This seminal report clearly demonstrates the absolute, disproportionate and crucial need for Medicaid among racial and ethnic minority Americans, said Hilary O. Shelton, Director, NAACP Washington Bureau & Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy. “The NAACP continues to advocate that one of the primary responsibilities of government is to serve as a safety net to help citizens who may need assistance at critical times in their lives. Individuals suffering from cancer, diabetes, lung disease, heart disease or who have had a stroke clearly fall into this category, and as this report demonstrates Medicare and Medicaid are currently necessary programs when it comes to providing these Americans with life saving medical care and treatments.”

“The many chronically ill shut out or priced out of private market insurance would have nowhere to turn if it weren’t for Medicaid,” said Jennifer Ng’andu, Deputy Director, Health Policy Project, NCLR. “Medicaid reaches one out of every six Americans, and is especially effective in serving communities of color. It is not just a safety net program, but the major foundation of our health care system.”

“The findings from this study confirms the position that the NMA has repeatedly held, namely that Medicaid provides coverage for the most vulnerable, and that we should do all we can to protect their access and preserve the quality of care received,” said Dr. Cedric Bright, President of the National Medical Association.

“The National Urban League and our 98 affiliates in 36 states are working to provide direct services to low-income families and we know first-hand that minority communities suffering from chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease rely on Medicaid to access care,” Chanelle Hardy, Executive Director of the National Urban League Policy Institute, said today. “During the economic downturn, we are also seeing that Medicaid funding is not only critical for low-income families, it is also quickly becoming a lifeline for middle class families who have lost jobs and been dropped from employer-sponsored insurance. Too many families rely on Medicaid as their critical access point to health care and arbitrary cuts to the program will do nothing to reduce the cost of health care.”

Families USA contracted with The Lewin Group to develop the estimates in this report. The report, “Medicaid: A lifeline for Blacks and Latinos with Serious Health Care Needs,” is available at