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Medicaid - A Major Senior and Disability Lifeline

  • Published: 2011-07-18 (Revised/Updated 2016-10-08) : Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Cuts to Medicaid or elimination of the program could deny millions of Americans the choice to receive the health care services they need.

Quote: "For America's seniors, people with disabilities, people who are poorest and most ill - the Medicaid program is an essential safety net."

Main Document

The National Council on Aging (NCOA), as well as a wide-range of other Disability Services, placed a two-page advertisement in Roll Call Newspaper highlighting the need to retain funding for Medicaid for America's older adults and people with disabilities. The advertisement was signed by 179 of the nation's leading aging and disability groups. The advertisement states that greater than one-fourth of all seniors and people with disabilities depend on Medicaid.

Cuts to Medicaid, or elimination of the program, could deny millions of Americans the choice to receive the health care services they need in order to live independently in their own homes and communities. Additionally, cuts to Medicaid could cost this nation thousands of health care jobs and place an increased burden on both people and their family members. James Firman, the President and CEO of the NCOA states, "NCOA realizes that we need to increase the debt ceiling and reduce the budget deficit. But Medicaid is an absolute lifeline to those in need. Cutting it would put millions of seniors and people with disabilities in extremely dire straits."

The advertisement itself asks the leaders of America not to jeopardize the lives of the most vulnerable people in America by cutting Medicaid. It asks the politicians of this nation not to cut the lifeline to long-term services that millions of seniors and people with disabilities depend on.

Facts the NCOA Advertisement Does Not Mention

There are a number of facts the NCOA advertisement could not present simply because advertising space in a publication is limited. A two-page advertisement presenting aging and disability organizational support for Medicaid cannot tell you, for example, that Medicaid serves people who are in poverty already. There are other facts the ad could not tell you because of limited space.

People who are eligible for Medicaid must meet eligibility requirements. In other words, there are no rich people on Medicaid. The program serves people who often times cannot afford health care, making it possible for them to receive the health care they need to regain their health and remain healthy.

Medicaid is only available to certain people who are low-income and families who fit within an eligibility group that is recognized by both federal and state law. The program does not pay any money to individuals. Instead, it sends payments to health care providers. Depending upon the particular state a person lives in, they may be asked to pay a co-payment for some medical services.

Certain populations or groups of people are covered by Medicaid, such as people with disabilities, seniors, and people who are blind. To be eligible at all, a person's income, resources, bank accounts, real property, as well as any other items that may be sold for cash, are all taken into account. People who apply for Medicaid must be a United States Citizen or a lawfully-admitted immigrant. The rules for people who are living in long-term care facilities, as well as children with disabilities who are living at home, are unique.

Even if a person is living in poverty they still may not meet all of the requirements for Medicaid. The program's medical assistance does not cover all poor persons. Medicaid does not provide health care services for even very poor people unless they fall into one of the designated eligibility groups! Simply being poor is not enough to qualify a person for Medicaid. Income is only one of the tests for Medicaid eligibility. The program tests a person's assets and resources against established thresholds.

Medicaid Eligibility - People with Disabilities, Seniors, and Persons who are Blind

People with Disabilities and Seniors often have to meet financial limitations that are tied to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in order to be eligible for Medicaid. The SSI program has specific and categorical definitions for determining eligibility, as well as in income standard of $674 a month for an individual or $1,011 for a couple (2009); I dare you to try to live on it and pay for health care. While determining a person's monthly income standard, the States in America have the option to disregard $20 a month worth of income, or the price of a pizza. In other words, if the State a person is living in decides to do this, a person might have $694 a month in income and still qualify for Medicaid. States that decide not to do this are known as, '209(b),' States of which there are eleven, the financial and non-financial eligibility requirements to receive Medicaid health care assistance can be even more strict!

The following States are 209(b) Medicaid program States:

The year 2009 found twenty-four States in America setting their Medicaid financial eligibility levels for people with disabilities and seniors at or below the SSI income level of 75% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Eighteen States, to include D.C., set their eligibility levels at 100% of the FPL or higher. The majority of the States require a person to have less than $2,000 in total resources.

The Importance of Medicaid

The Medicaid program plays a number of unique roles that bolster America's health care system. For America's seniors, people with disabilities, people who are poorest and most ill - the Medicaid program is an essential safety net. The Medicaid program provides essential health care coverage to nearly 60 million Americans, including 8.8 million low-income seniors and 8.5 million younger persons with disabilities who depend on Medicaid to fill the gaps in Medicare. Cuts to the Medicaid program would be a health care disaster for millions of seniors and people with disabilities in America. The safety net must remain in place.

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