Benchmark: Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP spending in the Tri-Cities

Now that we’re in a new year and the 2017 tax cut/reform is in place some in Congress have turned their focus on reforms/cuts in social programs to help defray the projected deficit the tax cuts will produce.

At the top of the list are Medicaid and Medicare. Social Security is there, but further down on the list. At the same time, Congress’ months-long failure to pass a long-term expansion to the Children Health Insurance Program has become a threat to that program.

Whether or not those reforms/cuts get past the talking stages remains to be seen. The last time there was a big push to make cuts in such programs also followed tax cuts. They were shut down because many tax cut advocates didn’t want cuts in social welfare programs to be linked to a process to pay for deficits created in part by tax cuts.

In millions of dollars

There’s no way around the reality that Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP are major medical care revenue streams in a region when health care has replaced manufacturing and the primary provided or jobs. Six of the careers that are providing most-in-demand jobs for our region are medical according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Those jobs vary from doctors and surgeons to healthcare instructors, nurse practitioners to health care aids and assistants.

The National Association of Counties’ current data update includes 2016 information that helps puts those programs and the political discussions in perspective

on both a county and Tri-Cities region.

The combined Medicaid, CHIP and Medicare payments in the Tri-Cities in 2016 was a little over $2.2 billion dollars. Most of that went to Sullivan and Washington counties since that’s where the region’s population is concentrated.  And, during 2016 there were 36,496 children living in the seven-county region who were classified as “living in poverty.” The county child poverty rate ranged from 18.9% in Washington County VA to 33.4% in Johnson County.