Medicaid cuts could impact half of Cincinnati Children's Hospital patients, doctor says

CINCINNATI -- A doctor at Cincinnati Children's Hospital says cuts to Medicaid in the latest Republican health care plan would impact nearly half of the hospital's patients.

The new draft offers billions to fight addiction, maintains some Obamacare taxes on the wealthy to help pay for it and allows for cheaper insurance plans that don't cover everything.

One thing it doesn't do, critics say, is protect kids. The cuts to Medicaid, a health system on which poor children rely, are still deep, says Dr. Ray Bignall.

"It's important to know that any cuts to Medicaid will hurt children, and this bill cuts Medicaid, so it will hurt children," Bignall said.

About 50 percent of the young patients at Cincinnati Children's Hospital rely on Medicaid, which is in the cut's "crosshairs," Bignall said.

"The cuts are essentially just as deep as they were before. It seems that this is a core element of the legislation that isn't going anywhere," Bignall said.

He's not the only one who feels that way.

"The Senate plan is still unacceptable. Its cuts to Medicaid are too deep," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said. 

Critics say efforts to exempt children with special needs under the new plan are not specific enough, potentially leaving a large coverage gap.

"We want them to grow up to be healthy, productive members of society. How can they do that when they're struggling with illness?" Bignall said. "Then, on top of all of that, families are struggling with the financial realities of having to struggle with medical care without Medicaid."

Sen. Mitch McConnell's office and a GOP aide familiar with the revised bill defend it by saying it "has special safety net funding for states to use for Medicaid providers" - including services to children, exempting kids with special needs.

McConnell's office said Medicaid spending would grow -- more slowly -- but it would adhere to a budget for the first time in the program's history.

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