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Medicaid: Your Questions Answered

In the build-up to the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney, much of the health care discussion thus far has focused on options for reforming Medicare.

But Medicaid, its counterpart for low-income and disabled Americans, actually covers more people — 60 million to be exact, of which about half are children. The program also pays for nearly two-thirds of nursing home residents and about 40 percent of births. And both candidates say they’d drastically change that program, too.

As Obama and Romney prepare to take the stage for the debate — hosted by the NewsHour’s own Jim Lehrer and with health care among the topics to be addressed — we wanted to cap our Medicaid coverage from the past week by answering your lingering questions on the program and the candidates’ proposals. NewsHour politics editor Christina Bellantoni sat down with Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News early Wednesday afternoon to do just that (find the answers below). But first, a refresher:

On Monday’s PBS NewsHour broadcast, Hari Sreenivasan looked at both presidential candidates’ proposals for the program. In brief, President Obama’s health reform law would drastically expand Medicaid to an approximate 17 million more Americans while Mitt Romney would convert federal contributions for the program to block grants that would likely result in severe Medicaid cuts.

If you missed it, check out the full broadcast piece here:


Also Monday, Phil Galewitz of KHN addressed some of the most frequently asked questions about Medicaid, its role this election season and potential impacts the candidates’ proposals could have on the program.

Without further ado, here’s Christina Bellantoni and Phil Galewitz, taking your questions:

Question 1: What is the central tension around Medicaid this election season?

Question 2: Paul Ryan and other Republicans say Medicaid, as it exists, doesn’t provide good care for those who receive it. What are the two opposing arguments?

Question 3: The Medicaid expansion as proposed under the health care reform law would require money from Congress. Is Congress funding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act?

Question 4: The reimbursement that doctors receive for a procedure through Medicaid is usually much less than they would get from a typical insurance plan. After Medicaid expansion through Affordable Care Act, will doctors continue to accept Medicaid patients? If not, how are these newly insured people receive coverage?

Question 5: How much does Medicaid cost taxpayers every year? What percentage of the national budget is this taking up?

Question 6: Why are we not seeing more pre-retirement age people buying long-term care insurance? Wouldn’t that solve the problem of limited income and living in a nursing home or long-term care facility?

Question 7: How much control do the states have over Medicaid? What’s the balance between them and the federal government?

Question 8: Has Kaiser Health News looked at how people understand the Medicaid issue? If it comes up in the debate, how many people will understand what terms are at stake here?

Question 9: If Mitt Romney is elected president, will there be major changes to Medicaid?

Question 10: What potential do block grants have to change Medicaid? Why are people opposed to the idea?

Question 11: As a correspondent covering health care, what will you be listening for in the debate?

Question 12: Republicans are concerned that all of this is placing an unfair burden on the states. Are you expecting to hear Mitt Romney say this on-stage at the debate?

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