Day 38: Medicaid at 50: Primary Payer for Long-Term Services

Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care.

What is long-term care? Long-term care is the care provided to people living in a nursing facility, at home, or in the community to assist people with activities of daily living. These are tasks that are similar to medical assistance– ensuring drugs are taken, maintaining hygiene, etc., many of these tasks are social service supports such as transportation services, assistance walking, or cooking.

So who pays for it? Well you’ve probably guessed by now: Medicaid. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we spend over $200 billion a year on long-term care services and Medicaid pays for about 62% of these costs. These services are labor intensive and often overwhelm family caregivers and drain personal finances, causing families to spend down their savings until the individual needing care (often the elderly and disabled) are living at the poverty line and able to qualify for Medicaid.  If there has been an undeniable common refrain in Medicaid, it is that it protects people from financial distress. Long-term services are a perfect example of the program helping people most in need of care pay for the necessary services to maintain daily life.

This is where a large portion of the costs are in the Medicaid program. This area is going to grow as the baby boomers age and require more long-term care. This field is going to grow as we continue to extend life and need help in our later years. Right now, Medicaid is there.

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