Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Medicaid insures historic number - USA Today

Category: Elder Law

The number of poorer Americans who get health insurance through Medicaid has grown from covering 34 million people in 1999 to 47 million in 2004. This means that in combination with Medicare, the military and federal employee health plans, the government has become the country's number one health insurer. This article from USA Today looks at some of the costs of Medicaid. Medicaid Insures Historic Number:

However, the article fails to delve into the divisiveness of the issues. Medicaid offers access to health care for the poor. This is generally perceived as a "good thing" when addressing children - which it is undoubtedly is. The article points out that record numbers of our children now have access to health care through the Medicaid system.

The issue become more murky with the adult "working poor", who in some articles on the subject are perceived as somehow trying to "fleece" the system. A related article, Welfare Reform Opens Medicaid to Millions explores how access to Medicaid can change the lives of working Americans, and the incentives for people to who financially qualify for Medicaid to use the program in lieu of more expensive private health insurance - which many times is simply unaffordable for a family earning $35,000 - $45,000 a year.

The issue reaches an even more controversial point where Medicaid is paying for the long term care costs (ie: nursing home costs) of the elderly - something that Medicare (the governments private pay insurance program for seniors) does not provide for. At this point, there is even more of a misconception that the rich are playing the system to keep money in their own hands. Unfortunately, this belief fails to consider the basic point of Medicaid - you must be poor to qualify for it; not just struggling to make ends meets, but unable to make ends meet without cutting back on life essentials such as food, shelter, and medical care. For the elderly poor, living on a fixed income, depleting savings, and looking at a future with ever increasing costs of living, Medicaid offers a lifeline answering the question of "who will take care of me?". It is frightening to be old and poor in this county - and Medicaid is the only option that many people have. The fact is that people will get old and not be able to pay for their care - especially when one spouse needs care and the other spouse needs to be able to afford to remain at home. Medicaid is not the best solution to the problem, but many times it is the only solution.

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