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Medicaid Cuts Could Leave Thousands of Alaskans Facing Life-Threatening Health Challenges


Report Details Number of Alaskans with Cancer, Heart Disease, Stroke, Diabetes, and Chronic Lung Disease Who Depend on Medicaid for Treatment

Washington, D.C.—Cuts to Medicaid would pose a specific and dangerous threat to thousands of Alaskans who depend on the program for regular treatment for such medical conditions as cancer, diabetes, chronic lung disease, heart disease, and stroke. Without Medicaid, many of these seriously-ill Alaskans would no longer be able to fill essential prescriptions, keep up with key screenings, or see a doctor if their condition worsens or reoccurs.

The importance of Medicaid to Alaskans is detailed in a report today released jointly by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, the American Lung Association, and the health care consumer group Families USA.

Tens of thousands of Alaskans are covered by Medicaid. Of this number:

* An estimated 1,920 Alaskans on Medicaid have cancer, including 70 children, 1,190 adults and 650 seniors;

* An estimated 6,530 Alaskans on Medicaid received treatment for diabetes, including 310 children, 4,240 adults and 1,970 seniors;

* An estimated 14,430 Alaskans with chronic lung diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis, including 7,320 children, 5,820 adults, and 1,290 seniors, rely on Medicaid coverage;

* An estimated 15,480 Alaskans depend on Medicaid for treatment of heart disease or stroke, including 1,000 children, 9,980 adults and 4,510 seniors.

Although Alaska directly administers its own Medicaid program, every dollar the state spends for health coverage for low-income individuals is matched at least dollar-for-dollar by the federal government.

Particularly during difficult economic times, this federal match helps Alaska to provide health coverage for tens of thousands of its residents.

The treatment of chronic and life-threatening diseases can be extremely costly, and often people with these illnesses become eligible for Medicaid when they have exhausted all their financial resources paying for medical care. As an example, the average hospital charge nationally for a stay associated with a heart attack is nearly $63,000, and for people with no health insurance or with inadequate coverage, these costs can quickly drive them into poverty and qualification for Medicaid.

“Hard-working Americans with diseases such as cancer can get health coverage through Medicaid after having lost their health insurance because they are too ill to work or run through their savings,” said Christopher Hansen, President of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “This program is a safety net for American families, and losing access to the program could force them to stop treatment that could save their lives.”

“Diabetes has a disproportionate impact on the Medicaid population because Medicaid provides important health coverage to people facing elevated health risks.  Children and adults eligible for this valuable program are more likely to be in poor health and thus require the services Medicaid provides to a greater extent than individuals with private insurance,” said Gina Gavlak, RN, BSN, Vice Chair of the National Advocacy Committee, American Diabetes Association. “Cuts to Medicaid funding would be harmful to the millions of children, pregnant women, and adults with diabetes who rely on the program to manage their disease and avoid dangerous and costly diabetes complications such as blindness, amputations and kidney dialysis.”

“Medicaid is the lifeline for millions of children, adults and seniors who suffer from chronic lung disease such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis,” said Paul Billings, Vice President of National Policy and Advocacy for the American Lung Association. “If denied this critical healthcare coverage, it will result in higher healthcare costs such as increased emergency room visits. We need to set politics aside and protect the health of our nation’s most vulnerable population, particularly our children who will be most impacted by cuts to Medicaid.”

“Medicaid is a program that works and a program that provides urgently-needed care to thousands of people in Alaska suffering from serious but controllable diseases. It helps Alaska children get a healthier start in life and school, it helps to maintain a healthy Alaska workforce, and it helps head off medical debt, a leading cause of bankruptcies and home foreclosures,” Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, said today. “It should be crystal clear that with rising health care costs hurting family pocketbooks and with the economic downturn driving more families to depend on Medicaid, that this is precisely the wrong time to cut Medicaid funding to Alaska and other states.”

Families USA contracted with The Lewin Group to develop the estimates in this report. The full report, “Medicaid’s Impact in Alaska: Helping People with Serious Health Care Needs,” is available at http://familiesusa2.org/assets/pdfs/medicaids-impact/Alaska.pdf

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Families USA is the national organization for health care consumers. It is nonprofit and nonpartisan, and its mission is to secure high-quality, affordable health coverage and care for all Americans. Phone: (202) 628-3030 * Email: info@familiesusa.org

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.

The American Diabetes Association is leading the fight to stop diabetes and its deadly consequences and fighting for those affected by diabetes. The Association funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes. Founded in 1940, our mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. For more information please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit www.diabetes.org. Information from both these sources is available in English and Spanish.

Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a Charity Navigator Four Star Charity and holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.LungUSA.org.

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