Yes, we had a major victory this week in the battle to save health care coverage for millions of Americans, but the war is not over. As an elder law attorney, I am all too familiar with the dangerous health risks people often take when the cost of care is too high and benefits are too limited. Choosing between medications and groceries. Living alone for longer than it is safe to do so. Skipping doctors appointments. Avoiding life-saving trips to the Emergency Department for fear of the ambulance bill that will come in the mail a month later.
“These are our parents and grandparents,” said Senator Sherrod Brown in reference to the potential changes being made to the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA). “They are people who worked hard to build good lives for their families, and they shouldn’t lose it all to medical expenses in their later years. Cutting nursing home funding will hurt patients who depend on it, threaten jobs in our communities and further squeeze working families who are already juggling the expense of raising kids while caring for their aging parents.”
Medicaid is an easy target for Congress, because it is a very costly entitlement program that applies to those who have the least voice in society – the disabled and underprivileged. But an estimated 64% of people in nursing homes are on Medicaid. The number of people who need long term care is continuously increasing as baby boomers reach retirement age, and people are living much longer because of advances in medical care.
The cost of long term care in Ohio is exorbitant, averaging nearly $9,000 per month in greater-Cleveland, which is expected to increase by 25% in the next ten years. Cutting Medicaid for the elderly would be devastating to those seniors who have exhausted all other resources and do not have family members to provide for their care. And what about spouses who are living in the community with an ill spouse in a nursing home? Even if a family has money to spend on care, when all of their resources and assets are exhausted to pay for the care of the incapacitated spouse, their husband/wife could be forced to live in poverty.
Cutting funding to Medicaid is not and should not be the solution to our nation’s health care cost crisis. It’s a misguided solution, and it’s simply the wrong thing to do. Instead of cutting Medicaid and health insurance benefits, we should be expanding them like Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich had the foresight to do several years ago.
Health care for the aging and disabled is not a partisan issue. Regardless of political affiliation, we can all agree that the current system is broken, but abandoning the most vulnerable citizens in our society, the ill and elderly, certainly isn’t going to fix it. Politico recently suggested several Republican Senators who may be the secret weapon to help create bi-partisan influence for a better way forward, Ohio’s Rob Portman is one of them.
The risk of devastating consequences for aging and disabled Ohioans – and the family members who love them – can not be underestimated. The only solution is for those who are tasked with advocating for our collective best interest, to look past their party issues and fight to protect the human side of health care.
Bradley L. Greene, Esq. is a Life Care Planning and Elder Law firm located in Beachwood, OH specializing in Estate Planning, Medicaid Planning and Elder Abuse – offering personalized support and family guidance through all of life’s transitions. Contact us by phone at 216-575-5200 or visit us online here.