At last night's DNC convention speech, Bill Clinton talked about Romney/Ryan's plan for Medicare—and more importantly, he mentioned the bastard stepchild of government spending, Medicaid. The difference between the two programs—Medicare is for over-65 seniors; Medicaid is for those living in poverty—is not as clear cut as you'd think.
Two thirds of Medicaid's budget goes to pay for nursing home residents. And 1/2 of all nursing home residents are on Medicaid. Many start out with so-called long-term care insurance or with private funds, but those run out pretty fast. There's a very good chance your parents—or you and/or your spouse—will one day be dependent not just on Medicare, but even more so on Medicaid.
I am intimately familiar with the importance of the two programs: My mom was a nursing home resident who was also on Medicaid. She had a disability that affected her ability to work—she lived paycheck to paycheck most of her adult life, and worked every day, since she never had a job with paid vacation. Eventually she couldn't work at all, and then she could no longer care for herself. When her husband (who had multiple illnesses) could no longer care for her, she knew it was time to go to a nursing home.
Since she had nothing other than the clothes in her closet, she was easily eligible for Medicaid (and also, after a lot of paperwork, Social Security Disability). This is when I became aware of how lucky I was that there was a safety net there for her—and eventually, her husband, who joined her in the nursing home shortly after she went there to live. I was busy raising my children at the time, and working long hours myself. Taking care of her full time was not an option for me.
But when your parents are in the same predicament, or when you or your spouse needs the care that only a nursing home can provide, Medicaid may not be there for you. The Romney/Ryan budget wants to slash Medicaid funding, starting right now (not ten years down the road, like their plans for Medicare). Their budget cuts funding to Medicaid by at least 1/3, and additionally, turns it into block grants to the states.
Either states will raise taxes to pay for the cost of their increasingly aging population, or else you're going to be diapering your mom or dad, at just the time you'd rather be playing with your grandchildren. And believe me, diapering Mom is not as much fun as pinning a nappy on to your gurgling grandbaby.
I know, it's hard to believe the irony—the same party that tried to scare you with "death panels" is now proposing a drastic, draconian elder care plan. Not only will seniors be affected, but the most vulnerable in our society—the disabled, who also depend on Medicaid, and poor children will also find themselves the victims of Romney/Ryan budget cuts. They want to bring us back a few hundred years, to a time when a disability meant a death sentence, to a time when the sick and elderly had no dignity or self-determination.
I like Dickens; I've read many of his books of Victorian England, but I don't want to live there. I'm betting you don't either.