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AARP Opposes Changes in Medicaid that Penalize Older Americans

Critical Vote this Week in the House of Representatives


Contact: AARP Media Relations, 202-434-2560,

AARP strongly opposes changes in Medicaid that would deny long-term care services to people in need. A letter sent today from AARP CEO Bill Novelli urged House members to vote against the fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation bill.

The organization is in a full-court press this week against provisions in the House budget reconciliation bill that would unfairly penalize older Americans through punitive restrictions on eligibility and other issues.

In letters and calls to Congress, letters to the editor and on talk and news radio across the county, AARP members are expressing their opposition to the House proposal that would deny Americans health coverage at the time they have no way to pay for needed care.

The Fiscal Year 2006 budget reconciliation bill, now pending a vote in the House, would change the penalty date for the transfer of assets from the time someone donated money—for example, to family members or charity—to the time when they need care. The House bill would also extend the "look-back period," the timeframe used to determine eligibility for Medicaid. AARP CEO Bill Novelli stated "This would mean that a lower income stroke patient could be prevented from entering a nursing home, even if there were no alternatives, simply because she had helped a grandson with college tuition years earlier. A private-pay nursing home resident could be forced out of the home for a period of time, even after all his assets were exhausted, because he contributed to a hurricane victim."

The House bill further proposes to deny Medicaid coverage to lower income individuals who have seen their property values increase over the years. Novelli said, "In cities and states across the country, older Americans may be watching their property values increase while watching their health security fade away." Medicaid already has the ability for estate recovery after a beneficiary dies, Novelli explained: "Prohibiting coverage up front could unnecessarily force people to sell homes that they have lived in for decades or use reverse mortgages that require thousands of dollars in transition costs."

The reconciliation bill also weakens current rules that prevent spouses of nursing home residents, generally older women, from slipping into poverty.

AARP supports real reforms that do not simply shift the costs to those in need. Getting better drug prices, letting people control their own long-term care through "cash and counseling" programs, and expanding less costly home and community based care all add up to significant savings.

Novelli emphasized what is at stake, "Medicaid is not just the primary source of health care for millions of vulnerable lower-income Americans, it is also the primary source of nursing home coverage for those who can not afford the cost of long-term care."

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50 + educators; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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