Pediatricians say state Medicaid cuts will reduce kids’ health care access

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The state’s leading association of practicing pediatric doctors warned looming cuts to state Medicaid program could hurt Alabama’s children big time on Tuesday.

The Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics held a conference call with reporters, warning them planned a planned reduction in the amount of money allocated to Medicaid will lead to a downward spiral in levels of care and quality.

“Regardless of where you live in the state, the expected cuts to Alabama’s Medicaid program will significantly impact care to all children,” said Cathy Wood, MD, a pediatrician at Partners in Pediatrics Clinic in Montgomery and the president of the group.

“Alabama’s children need homes for their medical care. Cutting Medicaid will disrupt a very fragile healthcare system in our state and we fear will ultimately crush it,” said Wood.

Lawmakers in the Alabama Senate approved a budget which included $85 million fewer dollars for Medicaid-funded care than the state Medicaid Agency said it requires to keep care at the same – already underwhelming – status quo levels.

Gov. Robert Bentley – who once went out on a political limb to support expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act – now seems to have backed down to pressure, saying he would direct the agency to make cuts to sustain the program according to the new budget figures rather than seek greater funding.

500,000 children are enrolled in Medicaid, meaning nearly a huge share of the most vulnerable populations in America are relying on the outcome of the budget battle.

The pediatricians said Tuesday that if the current budget were enacted, close to half would stop taking Medicaid for a portion of their patients, such as new patients, or patients from a certain geographic are, while about half would have to lay off staff.

Additionally, the doctors’ group reported, more than one-third would stop taking Medicaid altogether, while one-sixth said they would retire or move out of state, depending on where they were in their careers.

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