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Written by: Michael Bolton on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 Posted in:

With the presidential election finally behind us, political focus has quickly shifted from hypothetical talk of reducing the federal deficit to real measures to prevent the looming “fiscal cliff.” As lawmakers frantically consider programs to cut in an attempt to reduce spending, costly Medicaid has risen to the top of many hit lists.

A recent Forbes article suggests that the lawmakers proposing Medicaid cuts must not understand the extent of what they’d be cutting or the critical role that Medicaid plays for adults with disabilities and the elderly. “They have no idea what it is and how important it is to frail seniors who need help with daily living,” said Forbes contributor Howard Gleckman.

The article debunks the “popular image of Medicaid: health care for poor mother and her child” and describes a more realistic portrayal of Medicaid: “long-term supports and services for an 85-year old widow with dementia,” stressing that the majority of Medicaid funding goes to disabled adults and the elderly. That is not to say that Medicaid doesn’t play a role in supporting poor mothers. In fact, nearly three-quarters of Medicaid enrollees are poor mothers and their children who receive health care. Still, while the majority of Medicaid recipients may be poor mothers, the bulk of Medicaid spending – about two-thirds– goes to the frail elderly and adults with disabilities, while one-third of all Medicaid spending –nearly $120 billion–funds just their long-term care.

When describing typical elderly Medicaid recipients, Gleckman states that “they are frail, often suffer from multiple chronic diseases (such as heart failure, dementia, or diabetes), and are impoverished.” Many – roughly 9 million– are known as “dual eligibles,” meaning they are “sick and poor enough” to be eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare.

By better understanding some of the most vulnerable Medicaid recipients, it becomes apparent that slashing Medicaid funding would be detrimental to the millions of elderly and disabled adults who rely on Medicaid funded services and supports in order to survive. Gleckman suggests finding a more affordable way to serve these people but doesn’t think that “taking a meat axe to Medicaid” is the right solution.

To read the full article, click here.

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