Republican health care bill to push costs onto schools

Changes to Medicaid in both GOP plans will push costs onto schools
Changes to Medicaid in both GOP plans will push costs onto schools

WAUWATOSA- Officials from Wisconsin’s school districts, like Phil Ertl of Wauwatosa, are fearing for their students, and their budgets, now that details of both GOP health care bills are public. Both bills, the Senate plan written in secret, and the House-written American Health Care Act, include massive cuts to Medicaid. These cuts, coming from the change of Medicaid from an open-ended funding system to a per-capita cap or block-grant system, will pass costs for special needs care and education onto Wisconsin school districts.

McKenna Exenden at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

The 13-year-old is nonverbal and has cognitive disabilities and like more than 118,000 students with special needs in Wisconsin schools, the medical services she receives during the school day are paid for in part by the federal funding stream.

But that could change under the recently passed  House health care bill and the Senate bill now under consideration.

Both bills would put caps on Medicaid funds to states — which in turn could leave school districts on the hook.

“Ultimately, we have to provide those services,” Wauwatosa Superintendent Phil Ertl said. “The money is going to come from somewhere, so we’re going to have to figure out where that somewhere is.”

Nationwide, Medicaid provides health care, long-term care and other services to roughly 74 million people. That includes 1 million — more than one in six — in Wisconsin.

In schools, every special needs student receives an individual education plan agreed on by educators and parents. The services are mandatory; school districts are legally obligated to meet those students’ needs.

Medicaid funds are used for audiology services, speech therapy, physical therapy, nursing assistance or other medical equipment or services as outlined by the plan. Medicaid funds also can be used to pay for nurses, psychologists and guidance counselors.

The bill passed by the House to replace parts of the Affordable Care Act would change the way the cost of Medicaid programs is shared by the federal government and states, limiting future increases in federal funding and putting more of the onus on states.

The draft of the Senate’s version of the bill released Thursday would lower future spending on the program even more than the House bill.

Read more at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.