Sunday, January 15, 2006

Medicaid

Medicaid is medical insurance for those who do not qualify for Medicare, or who cannot afford to pay costs that are only partially covered by Medicare insurance. Medicaid is free to people of all ages who are recipients of Supplemental Security Incomes (SSI) and other public assistance programs generally grouped under the caption of welfare. Because the over-65-year-old population experiences more frequent and more severe illness than the young, the elderly have absorbed about 35 percent of the Medicaid funds in recent years even though they represent only about 15 percent of the population that receives Medicaid assistance. The program is financed by federal and state governments, and is administered by state welfare agencies. Medicaid is also available to people who do not receive public assistance but who have incomes sufficiently low to meet the program's eligibility standards. For individuals who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid, the Medicaid segment covers costs that would not be covered under Medicare alone. Medicaid also pays for up to three drug prescriptions per month, and eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dental care. Most importantly, Medicaid covers longterm care costs in nursing homes or at home, whereas Medicare does so only in exceptional circumstances and for a limited number of days.
Individuals who exhaust their income and property resources while personally paying for long-term care become eligible for Medicaid. Under the Medicaid program they continue to receive long-term care, and, therefore, are not deprived of help because of impoverishment.
The law and regulations governing Medicaid eligibility change from time to time, but under present eligibility requirements a married couple with one member in a nursing home may transfer jointly owned property, such as a car or house, to the other member. The purpose of this arrangement is to allow the spouse remaining at home to be financially independent and to prevent that individual from becoming an impoverished charge of the public. Because single people are not assumed to have dependents, their assets must be liquidated to cover the costs of long-term care.
Medicaid eligibility criteria and benefits vary from state to state. Each state sets and governs it own rules. The older individual should contact the local public assistance or welfare office for requirements in his state.
Deedy, J. Your Aging Parents. Chicago: The Thomas More Press, 1984.
Gillies, J. A Guide to Caring for Coping with Aging Parents. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981.

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