NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

MEDICAID AND LONG-TERM CARE

May 3, 2005

The cost of Medicaid spending at the state and federal level is expected to be $300 billion this year. The Georgia Legislature just approved a $6.8 billion Medicaid budget for next year that might have to be reduced by $450 million if the federal government changes how the program has been funded.

But largely left out of the debate has been the most ominous Medicaid trend line of them all -- the issue of long-term care, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC).

For example:

  • Elderly, blind and disabled people represent roughly a quarter of the nation's 50 million Medicaid patients, yet they account for 71 percent of the program's costs.
  • The National Governors Association reports that people with disabilities are the fastest-growing Medicaid eligibility group.
  • Over the next 30 years, the number of Americans aged 65 and older -- and the proportion of those individuals 85 and older -- is expected to double -- and Medicaid, not Medicare, will pick up most of the long-term care services of many of these patients.

In order to keep Medicaid sustainable for the basic services, the nation will need to come to grips with what role government and private individuals should play in ensuring long-term care, says AJC.

Among other things, some of the nation's governors want Medicaid to take aim at the common practice of allowing elderly nursing home patients to give away their assets so that Medicaid will pick up their bills. That's why Congress needs to seriously consider incentives to make the purchase of long-term care insurance more affordable, says AJC.

Similarly, the private sector should step up promotion of innovative long-term care plans, such as those that allow life insurance benefits to be converted for nursing home care. Then Medicaid might have a chance to survive, says AJC.

Source: Editorial, "Band-Aid not enough: Medicaid won't be fixed without addressing the greatly expanded need for long-term care," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 2, 2005.

 

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