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Medicaid: A Lifeline for America’s Seniors and People With Disabilities

En español | Medicaid provides a vital safety net for millions of Americans, including more than 17.4 million seniors and children and adults with disabilities who rely on the program for critical health care and long-term services and support, such as help with daily activities including eating, bathing, dressing, managing medications, and transportation.

The joint federal-state program provides affordable health care for America’s most vulnerable citizens with low incomes and few assets. In many states, Medicaid is also available to hardworking Americans who in 2018 will earn less than $22,715 for a two-person family, or $34,638 for a family of four, and do not have access to health care on the job.

Last year, AARP successfully fought Congress’s proposed $772 billion cut to Medicaid, which would have caused many seniors to lose the services they need to stay in their homes, in their communities and in nursing facilities. Rural hospitals especially count on Medicaid to cover the costs for those in need when an accident or illness strikes. Without that support, rural hospitals are forced to close, depriving area residents of access to care. Medicaid is essential to keeping our rural communities healthy and strong.

Challenges Ahead

AARP has long advocated for quality, affordable services to be available through Medicaid. In particular, AARP has called for more reliable coverage of services at home and in the community, increased quality measures, and health care for more hardworking Americans with lower incomes who have no access to insurance on the job.

Under federal law, Medicaid covers inpatient and outpatient hospital care, physician services, rural health clinic services and nursing home care. States also help pay for some services at home and in the community to help seniors and people with disabilities who require help with daily activities, avoiding more costly nursing home care.  However, because these home- and community-based services are not mandated by federal law, they vary widely across states and are only available at the discretion of state policymakers.

AARP Guiding Principles

As you consider a candidate, keep in mind AARP’s guiding principles on the Medicaid program:

  • Medicaid shouldn’t force seniors and people with disabilities in need from their homes and into nursing homes. Instead, Medicaid should also offer services that help seniors and people with disabilities who are eligible stay in their homes where they want to be. This is not only more cost effective — care at home costs much less on average than in nursing homes — but it is also the right, commonsense policy.
  • America’s most vulnerable citizens with low incomes who are eligible for Medicaid should be able to access the program when and where they need it, for as long as they need it. 
  • Arbitrary changes to Medicaid, like block grants (lump sums to states) and caps, are just Washington code for cuts. Such reductions would mean seniors and people with disabilities could lose access to the vital services that help them remain in their homes, hardworking Americans could lose their health insurance, people could lose their jobs and state economies would be threatened.