HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Monday, June 27, 2005

Medicaid Reform

Today's New York Times has an article discussing potential reforms for the Medicaid program, which has been growing and growing in cost.  One popular set of ideas is to remove from Medicaid those who are "poor" so that they qualify for Medicaid as a means to pay for long term care.   The article states,

Congress is holding hearings. The governors have a plan. The Bush administration has named a commission. Insurance companies have weighed in, and so have lawyers and the AARP.

The idea is to restrain the explosive growth in the taxpayers' contribution to the cost of long-term care for middle-class Americans in frail old age by making it harder to qualify for government benefits and shifting costs to individuals and private insurers.

Lawmakers, health policy experts and stakeholders in the long-term-care industry are rushing forward with proposals to remove from the Medicaid rolls people who are not poor by standard definitions, but who rather have exhausted a lifetime of resources or used legal strategies to give their money away.

There is plenty of argument about which proposals are best, but the broad consensus is that none, alone or in combination, will do much to cut government spending or provide older Americans an affordable and ethical way to pay for long-term care. And the need for a solution is critical; Medicaid, a government program created for the poor, is straining to cover two-thirds of the nation's 1.6 million nursing home residents, many of them real estate rich but cash poor.

How to care for our elderly who need long term care is a problem that this country has avoid dealing with for quite some time.  I am a little worried about shifting people out of Medicaid  - nursing homes are expensive.  However, I also agree that having people game the system to qualify for Medicaid doesn't seem to be helpful either.  The article mentions that long term care insurance has taken off and as a person with aging parents, I can tell you that one reason may be the extremely high cost.  [bm]

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