Benefit Bulletin: June 2015

Benefit Bulletin: June 2015

Good News Or Bad? More Medicare Beneficiaries Qualifying For Medicaid

The number of Medicare beneficiaries who are also eligible for Medicaid has been growing rapidly in recent years. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently released a report saying enrollment climbed 24%, from 8.6 million to 10.7 million, between 2006 and 2013.

The good news is the Medicaid healthcare safety net seems to be working for more people. Medicare Savings programs, administered by state Medicaid programs, help pay Medicare premiums. For people with the lowest income, the programs cover out-of-pocket medical expenses as well. Medicaid also covers services not covered by Medicare, including nursing home care, prescription drugs, eyeglasses, and hearing aids. Individuals with monthly incomes as high as $1,345, and couples with incomes as high as $1,813 and with few resources, may qualify.

But the bad news is that the numbers suggest a larger portion of older Americans are falling into poverty and turning to Medicaid to supplement their Medicare benefits. The largest percentage of growth among Medicare/Medicaid enrollees is among those who receive only “partial benefits,” those with incomes of $1,197 - $1,345 for individuals and $1,613 - $1,813 for couples. That group grew by 66% from 2006 to 2013.

Thousands of Baby Boomers are retiring every day and large numbers of them don’t have enough savings. According to a report released by the Federal Reserve, 20% of survey respondents between the ages of 55 to 64 reported having no savings at all for retirement. With average Social Security benefits currently around $1,200 per month, millions of people who rely solely on Social Security qualify for Medicare Savings Programs.

TSCL supports legislative efforts to ensure adequate funding of Medicare Savings Programs. Congress also needs to do more to prevent people from getting pushed below the poverty line by making sure annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) do a better job of keeping up with rising costs. TSCL is working for legislation that would provide higher COLAs by using the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).