Will Proposed Medicaid Cuts Threaten Western Pennsylvania Residents?

Updated on August 17, 2017

While the Senate vote on health care form has been delayed for now, leader Mitch McConnell has assured Congress that Medicaid cuts will remain on the table. Cuts might take a variety of different forms, but we can expect them to impact both the elderly and health care institutions in Western PA.

More People on Medicaid for Long Term Care

According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 63% of nursing home residents in Pennsylvania are on Medicaid. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the rising cost of health care and longer life spans are placing higher demands on the health care industry in the country at large.

While often viewed with a stigma, even squarely middle-class retirees now find themselves running out of savings and are dependent on Medicaid for the long-term residential health care they need. This type of care offers social opportunities as well as peace of mind for family members that their loved ones are receiving round-the-clock care and nutritious meals.

Unfortunately, this kind of care is expensive. While long term services such as nursing are only used by 6% of Medicaid enrollees, they account for 42% of Medicaid spending nationwide. Cuts to Medicaid would put pressure on states to raise eligibility requirements or pay less to nursing homes, in turn forcing nursing homes to cut costs by hiring less staff, cutting amenities, or cutting beds altogether. This is especially alarming, as the numbers of Americans aged 65 and older is only expected to double during the next four decades. While this aging population smokes less than the one before them, they have a 55 percent higher diabetes rate and a 25 percent higher obesity rate, which means demand for medical services is growing even without cuts.

The Need For More Local Health Care Professionals

The seven counties that make up the Pittsburgh metropolitan area – which includes Allegheny and Westmoreland – finds its population shrinking even as it ages. While the health care industry itself will create more than 49,000 new jobs in this area, the concern is that aging health care professionals will soon be retiring, unable to assist with the influx of elderly needing long term care. The fact that home-based services could be a solution to cutting Medicaid costs is inconsequential if there aren’t professionals to serve.

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