As the presidential campaign unfolds, the differences in approaches to Medicare by President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney have taken center stage. But what is getting far less scrutiny: Romney's plans for Medicaid. He would convert the health care program for the poor, disabled and elderly into a block grant to the states and sharply reduce funding over time. Middle-class Americans should be especially wary, since it's Medicaid, not Medicare, that covers nursing home care for aged and infirm parents and grandparents. Without Medicaid's safety net, it isn't clear what those Americans would do, and Romney doesn't have any good answers.
It's an understandable confusion. People think that since Medicare covers medical services for people over 65, it also pays for nursing home care for elderly people. Medicaid is thought of as a poverty program that provides medical coverage to poor families. But Medicaid is the program that provides long-term care to the elderly and disabled, which accounts for 31 percent of the program's $400 billion annual federal and state spending. Most of the nation's 1.8 million nursing home residents, including more than 77,000 Floridians, rely on Medicaid to pay their bills.
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