Why is Medicaid Important to Older People?


The recent discussions in Congress about rolling back Medicaid expansion, capping payments or converting the program to block grants will have a significant impact on older Americans.

Overall, one in five adults is covered by Medicaid and half of those adults are over age 50.  

For people who are 50-64 and not disabled, they are eligible for Medicaid under the Medicaid expansion, or the Healthy Michigan Plan. So if the Medicaid expansion goes away, they will lose their access to Medicaid. 

For adults who are 65+ or who are disabled, the Medicaid program works closely with Medicare to ensure they have access to the care and services they need.  In fact, 11 million Medicare beneficiaries rely on Medicaid to cover vital long-term home care and nursing home services, to help afford their Medicare premiums and cost-sharing, and more.  

To find out if you are eligible for Medicaid to help with Medicare, call the Area Agency on Aging and set up an appointment with a Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program counselor.  You can also look at the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) categories and income limit chart.  If you believe you are eligible, apply for Medicaid and indicate that you have Medicare. 

Whether a person wants to age in their home or an assisted living facility, Medicaid fills the gap in services not covered by Medicare by serving as the primary payer for nursing home and community-based long term services and supports (LTSS) which would otherwise be altogether unaffordable for low-income older adults and people with disabilities.  Two in three nursing home residents on Medicare are also enrolled in Medicaid and two-thirds of all Medicaid spending for people on Medicare is for long-term services and supports.

Medicaid also pays for most home and community-based services that allow seniors and persons with disabilities to receive support services in their home as opposed to institutions.

Medicaid has been shown to break down barriers to treatment.  Of adults 50-64 with Medicaid, 50% suffer from multiple chronic health conditions.  These adults are less likely to skip refilling their prescriptions meaning their health problems are addressed instead of becoming the source of expensive hospitalizations.  Medicare recipients can qualify for Extra Help with their prescriptions.  The program is similar to Medicare Savings Program and you must apply.  Contact the Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program.  

Federal cuts to Medicaid brought about by per-capita caps or block grants would drive states to make hard choices, likely leading states to scale back benefits, impose waiting lists, implement unaffordable financial obligations, or otherwise restrict access to services for older adults.

Adapted from Community Catalyst

Read more about Medicare/Medicaid programs

At the Washtenaw Health Plan, we can help you apply for the Medicare Savings Program.  We can also make appointments for you here with a Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program counselor.  Call to make an appointment 734-544-3030 or just walk-in Monday through Friday 9am-4pm.  


-Meredith Buhalis

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