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How Medicaid Helps Older Americans


  • Steven A. Sass


Medicaid is generally not the first program that comes to mind when discussing government health care for older Americans. Its counterpart, Medicare, is the primary health insurance program for seniors of all income levels, while MedicaidÕs beneficiaries span a broad age range and typically have low incomes. However, Medicaid does offer critical benefits to many retirees and those approaching retirement. For eligible retirees, Medicaid provides insurance directly or pays their Medicare premiums and co-pays. It is also the single largest source of long-term care support for the elderly, covering about half of total spending on these services. Finally, in states that adopted the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, the program insures about one out of six Americans approaching retirement. This brief offers a primer on the role of Medicaid for retirees and near-retirees. The discussion proceeds as follows. The first section reviews Medicaid benefits for the elderly, ages 65 and over. The second section reviews benefits for those approaching retirement, ages 50-64. The third section discusses how these groups, particularly those 65 and over, fit within the context of the larger Medicaid program. The final section concludes that the need for Medicaid benefits by older Americans will rise as the population ages and medical costs continue to increase faster than household incomes. Whether Medicaid meets this need depends on the outcome of the ongoing policy debate over the size and scope of the program.

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  • Steven A. Sass, 2018. "How Medicaid Helps Older Americans," Issues in Brief ib2018-5, Center for Retirement Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:crr:issbrf:ib2018-5

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