FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: AARP Media Relations, 202-434-2560, email@example.com
The House Energy and Commerce Fiscal Year 2006 budget reconciliation package would unfairly restrict Medicaid eligibility—particularly for older Americans who need nursing home care.
AARP strongly opposes a number of changes included in the Energy and Commerce Committee bill that would penalize people who have simply helped family members or given to charity. We agree that steps should be taken to close real loopholes that allow people to improperly qualify for Medicaid. However, the extended look-back period and the change in the penalty date would deny coverage to those eligible for Medicaid at precisely the time they need assistance and have no remaining assets, leaving them no other way to pay for needed long-term care. As a consequence, AARP considers these provisions to be punitive, and cannot support the legislation in its current form.
The Committee bill also includes troublesome provisions that could put the family home at risk and leave spouses of nursing home residents financially vulnerable. Specifically, the bill denies Medicaid eligibility to a low-income individual with substantial home equity, thereby forcing an individual to either take an expensive reverse mortgage or sell the home in order to get long term care coverage. Further, current rules that protect against the impoverishment of community spouses—generally older women—will be lost.
AARP commends some changes in the package that would make Medicaid more effective. Getting better drug prices and letting people control their own long term care services through "cash and counseling" programs can strengthen this vital safety net. The provision to expand some home and community-based care is also encouraging. The Energy & Commerce Committee package acknowledges the need for consumer protections in the Long-Term Care Partnership program, but additional improvements are still needed before this program is expanded.
AARP will work with Members on both sides of the aisle to ensure that the House budget reconciliation package retains real reforms that strengthen Medicaid and make it more effective, not policies that deny care to those in need.