NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Medicaid: The Bill Payer of Last Resort

August 29, 1995

Medicaid, which was established in 1965 as a health care system for the poorest Americans, has become a long-term health care system for America's elderly:

  • The system is growing at more than 11% a year, and the number eligible for participation has swelled from 24 million in 1990 to more than 35 million last year.
  • The elderly and disabled make up less than one-third of the nation's 37 million Medicaid recipients, but six out of every 10 Medicaid dollars go to their care.
  • Poor children constitute half of all Medicaid recipients but use only 15% of Medicaid dollars.
  • Medicaid spends on average $8,704 a year for each elderly recipient, $1,717 for adults and less than $1,000 for children.

Republicans propose returning the program to state control with continued but reduced federal funding. Opponents claim that cuts will cause some current recipients to lose coverage by 2002.

Source: William M. Welch, "Medicaid: The Bill Payer of Last Resort," USA Today, August 29, 1995.


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