Past as Prologue: The Effects of the COVID-19 Economic Downturn on Medicaid Coverage for Podiatry Services

Thomas W Brewer
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Bethany G. Lanese
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Chad L. Appel
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James S Cairns
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David G. Armstrong
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As of 2016, Medicaid accounted for nearly 20% of state general fund budgets. Optional Medicaid services like podiatry are often subject to cost-cutting measures in periods of economic downturn, as was the case in the wake of the 2007 financial crisis. Although the cuts were intended as a cost-saving measure, research indicates they had the opposite effect. The restriction and limitation of these services during the Great Recession resulted in both poorer health outcomes for beneficiaries, and poorer financial outcomes for state Medicaid programs. With states citing record levels of unemployment as of April 2020 and projecting significant declines in annual revenue in 2021, the economic conditions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to rival those of the Great Recession. Given the historical precedent for restricting or eliminating optional Medicaid services as a cost-saving measure, it is likely that podiatric services will once again come under scrutiny. Previous efforts by state-level podiatric societies have proven successful in lobbying for the reinstatement of coverage under Medicaid by conveying evidence of the negative outcomes associated with elimination to stakeholders. The specialty must once again engage policymakers by drawing on evidence gleaned and lessons learned from past cuts of optional Medicaid services to avert counterproductive coverage restrictions intended to mitigate the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Corresponding Author; email: twbrewer@kent.edu