Sunday, May 01, 2005

Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Medicaid and Long-Term Care

See this editorial. A taste:

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.

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 it provides for pregnant women and children and other poor and uninsured Americans, the nation will need to come to grips with what role government and private individuals should play in ensuring long-term care.

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 for making the purchase of long-term care insurance more affordable.

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.

I'm not sure these are exactly the right proposals, but the issue is super-important.


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