Did you know that Medicaid spending isn’t even a big deal? So says Sasha Pudelski, a spokesperson for of the DC lobbying outfit AASA, when she was interviewed by PBS’s William Brangham who didn’t seem to find anything wrong with that statement.
After expressing how "surprised" he was by the scope of Medicaid, reporter William Brangham began with, “I didn’t appreciate fully how reliant special ed services are on Medicaid. Can you give us a sense of how crucial they are to those budgets?”
Not mentioning any figures of the cost of the program to the federal government, Brangham instead went on to ask what her main concern for school districts were. Her reply: "The main concern is, by this major federal disinvestment in Medicaid, we’re going to have states having to pick up the tab. And if school districts are competing with hospitals and clinics and other providers for scarce dollars, I don’t see how a governor or state Medicaid director or state legislature is going to decide schools need this money, not a hospital, not a doctor."
That’s right folks, Ms. Pudelski is worried a government official is going to have to actually allocate money based on the needs of their constituents. The horror! But that's not even the most shocking part of this ‘interview’ with the Medicaid hardliner. Trying to show some semblance of impartiality, Brangham forced himself to give an argument against her proposals, saying "The Republicans would argue, we have federal deficits that are going to be massive in the future, and we have to address some of these programs like Medicaid, and that these are cuts that are just fiscally smart. I mean, how do you respond to that?"
She replied: “It’s not kids that are breaking the Medicaid bank, if the bank is even being broken, which I contend it’s not.” After she finished her statement, Brangham moved on, not mentioning that according to Pudelski’s own organization the special ed program would cost the federal government around $40 Billion over ten years, or that 60% of children with special needs already use private alternatives to Medicaid.
Mind you that the federal budget is projected to increase under the Trump Administration, just at a slower pace than under Obama. The proposed budget leaves Social Security and Medicare untouched, while committing to an over $4.7 Trillion investment in Medicaid over ten years. This would be in addition to individual state Medicaid investments, averaging 31% of what the federal government commits to. All of these facts and figures were available to the public, yet none managed to get mentioned in any part of the interview.
Brangham concluded the interview by summarizing her points for her, saying “So, what you’re talking about is really cuts that are really not just for this one dedicated population, but for potentially every student in a public school district.” She gleefully replied:
Absolutely. When you go to a school nurse’s office they don’t ask are you Medicaid-eligible? They take your temperature and find out whether you need to go home. So this is someone who benefits every child, just like a mental health practitioner in the school. And when we no longer can afford their services because they’re subsidized via Medicaid, every child in that building will be hurt. Bet you didn’t know you needed a specialist to take your child’s temperature, or that your kid’s sick days were costing you $4 Billion dollars a year!