Nearly 1 in 5 Americans participate in the Medicaid program. New York state has a higher participation rate than the national average and the largest total expenditures on the program in the country. It is simply undeniable that millions upon millions of Americans–from children to the elderly–depend upon this program.
That is why many are paying close attention to what the current Presidential candidates are saying about what they’d like to do with Medicaid in the future. Unfortunately, in the jumble of political slants and spin, it is difficult to get honest answers about what each candidate (and party) truly believes is the best step forward.
Recently New York Now sought to provide some clarity by outlining exactly what each side was suggesting on this Medicaid issue. For one thing, those concerned with Medicaid costs are likely to focus specifically on one group of program participants–the elderly. That is because, as one professor of public health noted, that the where a large portion of the expenditures go. The professor noted, “Two-thirds of the dollars that are spent on Medicaid are spent on elderly and disabled people…a good number of whom are…in nursing homes.”
Virtually all discussion about Medicaid revolves around concerns of its sustainability. Can we afford to keep the program on the current trajectory when weighing what revenues states and the federal government are bringing in, how it fits with other programs, and its rising costs? At the end of the day it is impossible to talk about the finances in a vacuum. In other words, whether or not Medicaid is sustainable depends on decisions about funding for defense, tax rates, and the like. Still, it is important to get a basic idea of where each Presidential candidate stands on their long-term vision for Medicaid.
So what does Governor Romney and President Obama propose?
Romney has suggested that he will turn Medicaid from a federal-state program into a block grant. This essentially means that the federal government will stop being involved in the specifics–giving that all up to the states–while providing a flat amount of money to each state to use as they see fit. This would be combined with a cap on what the federal government would provide to each resident on a yearly basis.
Conversely, President Obama made Medicaid changes as part of the “Affordable Care Act.” It called on states to expand coverage to certain non-disabled adults. The idea is that the expanded care will offer more preventative help–lowering costs overall by minimizing the need for costly emergency services.
No matter what happens in November, it is critical for all families to make informed, clear-sighted choices when it comes to planning for the future and potential long-term care needs vi the New York Medicaid program. Visiting with an attorney experienced in these issues is a prudent first step.
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