Much of the country is focused on the debate around repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. However, what hasn’t received nearly as much attention is that the House also passed deep cuts to the federal-state Medicaid program as part of the ACA repeal bill, despite that having nothing to do with repealing or replacing the ACA.
Most people think Medicaid, our nation’s safety net health care program, only serves very low-income children and mothers, and increasingly low-income working adults. In reality, the majority of Medicaid spending provides services and supports to help people with disabilities and older adults simply live their lives.
For older adults and caregivers, Medicaid is the country’s only guaranteed provider of the critical long-term care services that most of us will need as we age. Nearly two-thirds of long-term care provided in nursing homes is paid for by Medicaid. With nursing homes averaging nearly $90,000 per year, without Medicaid, millions of older adults and families would be financially overwhelmed if these services were limited or no longer available.
Medicaid is also important to helping our country address the challenges of a rapidly aging nation. The population of older adults is growing at an historic pace, and over 90 percent of seniors say they would rather age at home and in their communities, where care is often less expensive and often more effective. While less expensive than nursing home care, in-home services are often cost prohibitive for families as well. In our community services such as home care, adult day services, emergency home response service and medical transportation are examples of services Medicaid helps to provide. It is unfortunate the timing of this change in Medicaid is happening when Illinois has a budget that cannot sustain the current program. It is likely that the only choice for care in Illinois will be nursing homes. Home and community based services are often a fraction of the cost of nursing home care.
It makes no sense to undermine the only long-term care option available to most Americans just as our country undergoes a transformational demographic shift to an aging nation. If we really want to save federal health care dollars, we should expand the most cost-effective care options instead of eliminating them. Not only do these Medicaid-funded programs preserve the dignity and independence of older adults in the Metro East and across the country, they also save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year in avoided nursing home costs.
Our seniors deserve better!
Chief Executive Officer
AgeSmart Community Resources