WASHINGTON, April 5, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- We cannot address the country's woes on the backs of our nation's most vulnerable elders. It's unethical, unconscionable and unsound economics.
If you're part of a family, you're just one health care event away from needing Medicare or Medicaid. When the phone rings in the middle of the night and Grandpa has had a stroke or Mom has fallen and broken a hip, political party affiliation doesn't matter. What does matter is access to quality health care and long-term services and supports.
Our major "insurance" plan for nursing home care and other long-term services and supports, by default, is Medicaid. Medicare covers relatively little of this kind of care and few elders have private long-term care insurance, which covers less than five percent of the cost of current services.
Two-thirds of Medicaid spending goes toward coverage of health care and long-term services and supports for people aged 65 and over. The House budget proposal completely ignores this reality in its discussion of Medicaid.
You can't cut Medicaid spending on long-term care without cutting people and jobs. That's where most of the money goes in our field, whether services are provided in a nursing home or in the community.
The cutback in Medicaid funding that would take place under the block grant proposal in the House budget resolution represents bad ethics and bad economy. We oppose this proposal because:
- Block grants are unnecessary to give states flexibility in the use of their Medicaid funding. The current system provides waivers that have enabled states to pursue a number of innovations in the delivery of health care and long-term services and supports.
- Under a block grant, states would receive a fixed amount of federal Medicaid funding, as opposed to the increased federal allocation states now receive when their own spending rises. States would no longer be cushioned against the impact of recessions, when demand on the program typically increases even as state revenues shrink. The burden of increased costs would be shifted to the states.
- Federal Medicaid regulations currently require coverage of nursing home care. Block grants would eliminate this requirement, jeopardizing coverage of the frailest elders. Half of nursing home residents have dementia; half also have no family caregivers.
- While Medicaid now requires coverage of nursing home care, coverage of home- and community-based services is optional. If states eliminate optional coverage, elders will lose the opportunity to receive services in their homes; ultimately these elders could be forced to prematurely enter residential care settings.
- A loss or reduction in Medicaid coverage would shift the burden of long-term services and supports onto elders and their families. Family members currently provide a large share of long-term services and supports on an unpaid basis, but they also have substantial financial responsibilities for raising and educating children and saving for their own retirement.
- The budget resolution not only overlooks Medicaid's role in financing long-term services and supports; it also would repeal the CLASS plan for financing these services. Under this budget proposal, Americans would lose the framework the CLASS plan provides for responsibly planning for their long-term services and supports needs.
To ensure the continued availability of essential long-term services and supports, LeadingAge urges Congress to:
- Maintain the current Medicaid system and oppose its transformation into a block grant program.
- Preserve the CLASS plan for financing long-term services and supports.
Helping people is the solution not the problem.
LeadingAge is an association of 5,500 not-for-profit organizations dedicated to expanding the world of possibilities for aging. We advance policies, promote practices and conduct research that supports, enables and empowers people to live fully as they age.