Some fifty education groups are urging lawmakers to vote against the American Health Care Act, better known as the GOP alternative to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare to the haters.
The reason? The bill, which is being pushed by both President Donald Trump and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the speaker of the House, would make changes to the way that Medicaid is funded. It would base state allocations in part on how many people they have from a particular population. Proponents say this will help states be more creative with their Medicaid dollars, but the education groups argue that it will lead to significant cuts, to the tune of $880 billion over time.
Why do education groups care about Medicaid? Schools receive about $4 billion a year from the program, or more than a quarter of what they current get in Title I money for disadvantaged students. That makes Medicaid the third largest federal program for K-12 schools.
The dollars are generally used to help cover the cost of providing services to Medicaid eligible students in special education. That can mean anything from wheelchairs to speech therapy. Districts will need to make up for the cuts to Medicaid by either raising taxes, cutting services for general education students, or both, the groups who signed the letter contend. What’s more, school districts may be forced to cut mental health services and lay-off employees (including school nurses), the groups write. More on the connection between schools and the ACA here.
Here’s a snippet from the letter:
School-based Medicaid programs serve as a lifeline to children who can’t access critical health care and health services outside of their school. Under this bill, the bulk of the mandated costs of providing health care coverage would be shifted to the States even though health needs and costs of care for children will remain the same or increase. .... The unintended consequences of the AHCA will force states to cut eligibility, services, and benefits for children.
The letter was signed by AASA, the School Superintendents Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the School Social Work Association of America, the National School Boards Association, and others.