April 8, 2005

Be Our Guest

Reductions in Medicare and Medicaid
hurt the most vulnerable

By Vincent Caponi

The statistics are startling. More than 825,000 Hoosiers are currently uninsured, including 165,350 children.

As Congress begins to deliberate the federal budget, it is important for Catholics to have a voice. As you may already be aware, President George W. Bush is proposing a $60 million reduction over the next 10 years in Medicaid and Medicare spending.

As the largest health care employer in Indiana, St.Vincent Health serves an ever-increasing number of Medicaid and Medicare patients. In accordance with our Catholic values, the mission of our ministry calls us to serve the most vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly and the disabled. As you well know, these populations are also served by these programs. Any reductions will prove devastating to these individuals and their access to quality health care.

Serving the health care needs of vulnerable Hoosiers is paramount to our mission. I am proud of the fact that in fiscal year 2004, St.Vincent Health spent more than $78 million in charity care and community benefit. It’s evident the proposed reductions in Medicare and Medicaid spending will further strain the financial resources of our ministries and their abilities to serve people.

As cited recently by the Catholic Health Association, the consequences of being uninsured are significant. Accord­ing to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2002 more than 40 percent of uninsured adults postponed seeking medical care. Additionally, uninsured children are more likely than insured children not to receive treatment for common childhood illnesses.

Our mission, as Catholics, compels us to serve as advocates for the most vulnerable of our population, including the unborn, the poor and the elderly. There­fore, we are challenged to raise our collective voices.

While St.Vincent Health supports the modernization of federal programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, we hope this can be achieved without shifting additional costs to local and state governments or to hospitals and physicians, which could result in additional reductions to the program’s eligibility or ­benefits.

I am asking you to please join me in urging Congress to craft a budget resolution in a manner that includes serving the needs of the poor and vulnerable. Please write your local representative and ask him or her to oppose reductions in Medicaid or Medicare spending.

Together, we can make a difference.

(Vincent C. Caponi is chief executive ­officer of Indianapolis-based St. Vincent Health.)

Local site Links: