As a retired U.S. Army brigadier general, I’ve long been concerned that 71 percent of the nation’s young adults cannot qualify for military service because they’re educationally unprepared, physically unfit, or have a record of crime or drug abuse.
As an obstetrician-gynecologist affiliated with several Toledo hospitals, I also have a much more immediate worry: an effort underway in Congress that could strip health insurance away from millions of women, men, and children.
By immediate, I’m talking about action the Senate could take within the next couple of weeks. They are considering legislation that would drastically reduce funding for the Medicaid program, a state-federal partnership that provides health insurance and essential services for millions of poor and working-class adults, senior citizens, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and children.
Right now, the federal government pays for about 62 percent of Medicaid in our state. The Senate plan would phase out Ohio’s Medicaid expansion, which has allowed more low-income people to obtain health insurance through Medicaid who otherwise wouldn’t qualify. This accounts for many hard-working parents in low-wage jobs who would never be able to afford private health insurance.
According to the latest estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate health-care proposal would ultimately result in 22 million people losing insurance coverage by 2026. About 40 percent of those covered by Medicaid are children. According to Mathematica Policy Research, uninsured children are 70 percent less likely to get routine or emergency care. They’re also less likely to get treated for chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma, and to miss more days of school due to illness
All of that matters greatly given the large number of people who are already ineligible to serve in the military due to health reasons. Obesity is the leading medical reason for disqualification, and studies link early childhood Medicaid access with a reduced risk of obesity and high blood pressure in adulthood. About 11 percent of applicants can’t qualify due to vision problems, and about 14 percent can’t make the grade due to psychiatric issues. Both of these conditions can also be diagnosed and treated among kids with Medicaid coverage.
Studies also show clear connections between Medicaid coverage and improved oral health, lower rates of hospitalization, and reduced mortality from treatable causes. It also stands to reason that healthy kids who miss fewer days of class will be more likely to graduate from high school, which is a basic prerequisite for military service.
With all of this in mind, I urge lawmakers in the Senate to protect crucial Medicaid funding. It’s a smart, fiscally responsible way to support public health today and national security in the years to come.
DR. LANCE TALMAGE
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