One in six Pennsylvanians are now eligible for Medicaid or Medical Assistance, thanks to the economic downturn and generous eligibility standards. The Post-Gazette reports 2.2 million individuals now rely on government health care in the Keystone State.
By its nature, Medicaid is rigid and unable to adjust to changing economic situations — meaning enrollment grows as state and federal revenues shrink. Presently, Medicaid consumes 21% of the state budget, despite millions in federal subsidies, and more growth is expected. The system is simply unsustainable and Federal Health Care Reform will only make it worse, as it prohibits states from tightening eligibility standards.
On top of all this, a growing proportion of seniors are scamming the system by artificially impoverishing themselves to qualify for long-term care Medicaid assistance. A host of law firms now advertise Medicaid Planning services. These allow the elderly to tap government funds, in lieu of property and other assets they own, to pay for assisted living and nursing home care.
A Rockefeller Institute of Government report last month ranked Pennsylvania as one of the most generous states when it comes to long-term care benefits. The state, on average, pays $138 per nursing home patient per day, the eighth-highest among the states. Look for a forthcoming report from CF on needed reforms in long-term care.
Medicaid spending is a serious problem and we cannot afford to ignore opportunities to cut waste and abuse.