This week CareSource, Ohio’s largest Managed Care Provider, recognizes the 50th anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare. These programs have been protecting the health and well-being of millions of American families, saving lives, and improving economic security.
In Greene and Warren Counties, CareSource has been serving Medicaid members since 2000. Today, it serves more than 31,000 Medicaid members in the area, who would otherwise lack health coverage.
A lot has changed since July 30, 1965, the day President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicaid into law. Back then, neither AIDS nor hepatitis C existed. There was no promise of stem cell research, and genetic testing was only a dream. Tobacco had only just been declared a hazard. There was no Internet to look up information about your health. In fact, much about the way we get our health care and the way Medicaid works has changed. Today, there are treatments we never imagined and the ability to change lives by providing care at home.
Turning 50 is a great time to reflect on what Medicaid has come to represent for our country and our community. Medicaid provides health care to one in every five Americans from all walks of life. It pays for the delivery of half of all babies born in this country. And it fills the gaps in health coverage that frequently occur in people’s lives and helps them transition through life events that would otherwise leave them uninsured.
Critics like to paint Medicaid as a pathway to lifelong dependence on government-run health care. In reality:
The average adult with Medicaid spends only a portion of any given year enrolled in the program.
Children with Medicaid coverage live healthier and more productive lives as adults than similarly disadvantaged children without access to the program.
The majority of adults with Medicaid are employed and pay taxes, but work in low-wage jobs for small firms or service industries that typically don’t offer health insurance.
Medicaid is there for the disabled, seniors and their families; two-thirds of Medicaid’s budget goes to support these most vulnerable citizens.
One in five people with Medicare also rely on Medicaid to cover the things Medicare doesn’t, such as nursing home care, and dental and vision care.
Medicaid does more than just pay the bills. It has been a remarkable source of innovation in American health care. Faced with a system that frequently institutionalized people with disabilities, state Medicaid directors developed a model of home and community-based care that makes independent living possible. Medicaid also is an economic driver, especially in rural communities, by supporting employment in the health care sector and beyond. Support from Medicaid allows community hospitals, like Greene Memorial Hospital, to continue serving our community.
Debates about health care will never end. But in the past half century, Medicaid has proved its value to Greene and Warren Counties. It was hard to imagine in 1965 how significant Medicaid would become to ensuring the health and well-being of our country’s people. Over the next 50 years, Medicaid will continue to remain a vital safety net to the people in this community and to all Americans in need of health care.
Pamela B. Morris is the Founder, President & CEO, CareSource and guest columnist.