When you’re in the field of elder law part of your responsibility to your clients is to remain cognizant of all issues that are relevant to seniors and attempt to make projections regarding future circumstances. Predicting what is going to happen five, 10, or 20 years down the line is clearly an imperfect science but if you look closely enough you inevitably see a good bit of handwriting on the wall. When it comes to Medicaid it is important to keep your ear to the ground with regard to the debates surrounding budget cuts on Capitol Hill because it would appear as though social programs that benefit senior citizens are making their way onto the table.
Uttering even feint whispers suggesting cuts in popular social programs for our nation’s elders has long been considered to be political suicide in the United States. However, there are those in Washington who feel as though the time has come for programs such as Medicaid to be put under the microscope, and this is something that those who are interested in elder law issues would do well to follow closely as the debates continue.
Medicaid was originally conceived as a program that was intended to provide health care for those who could not afford it. At present it still serves this function, but many senior citizens rely on Medicaid to pay for long-term care in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities because Medicare does not cover it.
Since the cost cutters in Washington have become so passionate about spending reductions Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security are entering the discussions, and the reality is that these programs consume over 35% of the federal budget. People age 85 and older are the fastest-growing segment of the United States population, so it is logical to assume that more and more people will be relying on Medicaid to pay for long-term care into the foreseeable future. How this reality interfaces with a significantly pared federal budget is anyone’s guess.