WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin wrote to President Trump raising grave concerns about his plans to gut Medicaid funding and slash investments in behavioral health research, and the impact on America's veterans.
About 35,000 veterans in Wisconsin and nearly two million veterans across the country rely on Medicaid for their health coverage. The American Health Care Act, passed by the House of Representatives, would slash Medicaid by $834 billion and eliminate the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, the mechanism through which 340,000 veterans receive health coverage. The budget proposed Tuesday by President Trump would impose additional Medicaid cuts of more than $610 billion, putting the health of veterans, their families, and millions of other Americans at risk.
The letter urging President Trump to consider the repercussions for veterans who depend on Medicaid was also signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Gary Peters (D-MI).
“Your proposed cuts to Medicaid and your efforts to take away people's health coverage are inconsistent with the promises you made to America's veterans. They deserve better," wrote the senators. "We urge you to consider the impacts that gutting Medicaid would have on the lives and health of those who have sacrificed so much in service to our nation.”
"The Medicaid cuts being proposed by Republicans and Donald Trump are not only unconscionable but also represent a monumental lie to all of America -- particularly Trump voters -- who were told that Medicaid cuts would not happen if he was elected," said Will Fischer, Director of Government Relations for VoteVets. "These cuts would impact nearly 2 million veterans who are on Medicaid, representing one out of every 10 veterans. It tells you everything you need to know about who Donald Trump and Republicans value to see them try and rip health care away from millions of veterans, just so they can give sweetheart deals to their millionaire and billionaire buddies."
Veterans experience higher rates of substance use disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, but President Trump's budget strips nearly $400 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the federal agency that helps communities fight the opioid epidemic. These decreases are compounded by 20 percent funding cuts to the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which support research for treating substance use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injuries.
The letter is available online here. The full text is below:
Dear President Trump:
We are writing to express our grave concern about the impact that your proposed cuts to Medicaid would have on America's veterans and their access to health care. During your campaign and since you assumed office, you have repeatedly promised to "get our veterans the care they need wherever and whenever they need it." Preserving Medicaid is essential to keeping this promise. While many veterans can get health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly two million veterans - one out of every ten - rely on Medicaid for health coverage.
Your budget proposal and support for the American Health Care Act (AHCA) do not live up to your promise to ensure that veterans have access to the care they need. The AHCA would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ripping away care from 23 million Americans and slashing Medicaid by $834 billion. Because of the ACA, the uninsured rate for veterans decreased by almost 40 percent, and 340,000 of the veterans now enrolled in Medicaid receive coverage through the ACA's Medicaid expansion, which the AHCA would eliminate. Your FY2018 budget proposes over $610 billion in additional cuts to Medicaid. These "draconian" cuts to the nation's social safety net are an "assault" on veterans and their families - and on millions of other Americans.
Although your proposed budget would gut many programs important to veterans, including student loan funding, nutrition assistance, and disability payments, cuts to Medicaid would be particularly devastating. In addition to physical health problems, such as chronic pain and traumatic brain injury (TBI), veterans struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorder (SUD) at higher rates than the general population. Your budget states that it would "increase the focus on serious mental illness," but it strips nearly $400 million away from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and flat-funds key initiatives for fighting the opioid epidemic. To make matters worse, you also want to slash funding for the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse by 20 percent, cutting them by $301 million and $210 million, respectively. These institutes provide crucial support for research and development on TBI, PTSD, and SUD.
Your proposed cuts to Medicaid and your efforts to take away people's health coverage are inconsistent with the promises you made to America's veterans. They deserve better. We urge you to consider the impacts that gutting Medicaid would have on the lives and health of those who have sacrificed so much in service to our nation.