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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Medicaid for Today’s Seniors

Sarah Bagge

Staff Writer

Let’s do a quick brainstorm. Who do you think of when you hear “Medicaid beneficiary”?

Now let’s check your answers. Did “grandma” make your list? Maybe not, but she should have.

As the election approaches, there’s been a lot of discussion about what the candidates’ plans mean for seniors. If elected, Romney has promised not to touch the Medicare benefits of those already over 55 (though if he repeals the Affordable Care Act as he’s promised, Medicare premiums would go up even faster than they already are).

But what Romney hasn’t mentioned is how his plan for Medicaid would hurt many vulnerable seniors right away.

Medicaid is often associated with low-income children and adults. Seventy-five percent of Medicaid beneficiaries fall into those categories. But Medicaid also pays for Medicare costs and long-term care for about 6 million seniors who can no longer afford it themselves.

Providing good care to seniors in Medicaid is often quite expensive. While seniors are only 10 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries, they accounted for 23 percent of Medicaid spending last year. Medicaid spends more than five times as much for the average senior receiving long-term care as it does for the care of the average low-income child.

So when Romney talks about block-granting Medicaid and cutting it by one-third over the next ten years, he’s talking about cutting care for seniors. These cuts would likely leave seniors who need in-home or nursing home care, but who have already exhausted their savings, without any options.

Romney’s plan doesn’t protect today’s seniors. It would make care more expensive for all seniors, especially those who can least afford it.