Rural Health Policy Project

Medicaid’s Role for Seniors Living in Small Towns and Rural America

Grandma shows photo album to little grandson.

Medicaid is a lifeline for millions of older adults (age 65+) who are likely also enrolled in Medicare. Medicaid is the primary payer for long-term services and supports that are not covered by Medicare, paying for more than 50 percent of these costs in 2015. This role is especially important as the population ages: 37 percent of older adults ages 65-74 need long-term care, compared to 74 percent at age 85 or above.

In addition, Medicaid helps older adults afford a range of necessary health care services. Through the Medicare Savings Program, low-income Medicare beneficiaries receive assistance through Medicaid with a portion or all of their Medicare premiums and cost-sharing, including subsidies for their drug coverage.

Given the significant role that Medicaid plays for older adults, cuts to Medicaid threaten these vital supports. These challenges will only grow as the population ages; per-enrollee health care spending for an individual 85 years and over is about double the spending for an individual between 65 and 84 years old.

For more information, read the report below and our first report in this series, Medicaid in Small Towns and Rural America: A lifeline for Children, Families, and Communities.

State data on seniors’ health coverage in small towns and rural areas is available here.

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