Proposed Medicaid Cuts Will Put East Central Indiana Seniors at Risk

While most of the country is focused on the debate around repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, I feel it is my duty as President / CEO of LifeStream Services, Inc., your Area Agency on Aging / A member of INConnect Alliance, to turn your attention to an issue that hasn’t received nearly as much attention.

The deep cuts the House and Senate are proposing will jeopardize critical care for older adults and directly affect their caregivers. Thursday’s roll-out of the Senate version could have devastating consequences for seniors and families not only in Indiana, but in every state.

Most people think Medicaid, our nation’s safety net health care program, only serves very low-income children and mothers, and increasingly low-income working adults. Unfortunately, this is a devastating misconception considering the majority of Medicaid spending provides services and supports to help people with disabilities and older adults simply live their lives.  Currently 79% of Medicaid recipients are children, adults with disabilities and seniors.

LifeStream Services is East Central Indiana’s Area Agency on Aging. We provide programs and services such as transportation, in-home care management, and senior meal delivery to help seniors and people with disabilities live safe and independently in their homes. The majority of our 13,000+ clients rely on Medicaid to help them receive these life sustaining services.  Without our services, they would likely be in a more expensive nursing home setting.

As our country’s population of older adults grows at an historic pace, the need for long-term supports and services increases. Most of us at some point in our lives will be in need of critical long-term care services and Medicaid is the country’s only guaranteed provider.

Unfortunately, the proposed health care bill could change the trajectory of providing long-term care in homes and communities instead of institutions. The American Health Care Act would slash long-term Medicaid funding by $834 billion over 10 years by capping the federal government’s share and pushing these costs on to states. That’s unfair and simply not sustainable. States will have to make terrible choices that will hurt those who depend upon Medicaid for their health and safety. Older adults could lose the amount of in-home care they receive or could be required to pay for services despite being poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. The cost of insurance for seniors will increase dramatically. Families seeking care for a loved one will encounter long wait lists for services, and cuts to provider rates will harm the long-term care workforce.

It makes no sense to undermine the only long-term care option available to most Americans just as our country undergoes a transformational demographic shift to an aging nation. If we really want to save federal health care dollars, we should expand the most cost-effective care options instead of eliminating them. Not only do these Medicaid-funded programs preserve the dignity and independence of older adults in East Central Indiana and across the country, they also save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year in avoided nursing home costs.

Our seniors deserve better. We encourage our congressmen to reject cuts to Medicaid.

Kenneth D. Adkins
President /  CEO LifeStream Services
LifeStream Services, Inc.
Your Area 6 Area Agency on Aging
A member of the InConnect Alliance