For decades now, there has been an ongoing debate over the size and scope of the Medicaid program. Created more than half a century ago to help provide health care insurance to low-income Americans, the program has been a favorite target for some politicians and policy gurus whenever issues like debt, budgets, or healthcare policy are discussed. Since the program represents a sizable portion of both federal and state budgets, it’s only natural that it would receive some attention when costs and budget savings are at issue. To understand how any of this impact your life, however, it’s important to have some insight into the cost of Medicaid and how the program benefits society and you.
The Medicaid Program: What is It?
Medicaid is a program that joins the federal and state governments in a partnership that provides healthcare to low-income Americans. The program involves joint funding, with the federal government providing most of the money used for maintaining the services. The federal government has established guidelines under which the states manage their own programs. Those guidelines are intentionally broad in nature, so that states can enjoy flexibility in the administration of the Medicaid services they deliver to their residents.
As of 2015, the program provided health insurance coverage for roughly 97 million Americans, including 6 million senior citizens who rely on Medicaid for long-term care. Medicaid has often been praised for its ability to provide coverage at a lower cost than many private insurers – largely because it has lower administrative expenses and pays providers at a lower rate. Even with those cost savings, however, the program still costs roughly half a trillion dollars a year.
How Much Does Medicaid Cost?
As noted, Medicaid is a major expense, with total state and federal costs amounting to more than $500 billion in 2015. Some experts anticipate that those costs will only continue to increase, especially if more states eventually sign onto the Medicaid expansion made possible by the 2010 Affordable Care Act. For Florida, Medicaid provides coverage for 3.7 million residents at a total cost of $23.5 billion. Of that total cost, $9.5 billion is paid for by Florida taxpayers, with the remainder being covered by the federal government.
That cost-sharing means that Florida receives about $1.43 in federal Medicaid funds for every dollar that the state spends. As one of the 19 states that has yet to adopt the Medicaid expansion envisioned under the terms of the ACA, Florida has not been experiencing all the benefits that it might otherwise have enjoyed. Across the nation, that expansion has helped to reduce the total number of uninsured Americans by 16 million people – and most experts agree that health insurance coverage can result in improved health for those who have it.
What Does that Cost Mean for Society?
For society, the cost of Medicaid can be controversial – especially when the impact is measured only in terms of dollars spent. The Affordable Care Act has been even more controversial, and the incoming Congress and new President have vowed to repeal and replace the law – though no one seems to really know what that will entail. If repeal does happen, then the healthcare system could be something quite different in just a few short years.
For now, though, Medicaid continues to provide coverage for millions of low-income adults, children. While the cost can seem excessive – as any amount measured in terms of billions of dollars invariably will, there is no denying the positive impact that this program has on the lives of ordinary Floridians. Without its coverage, millions might be denied access to the affordable care that they need.
Could Medicaid Expansion Help in Florida?
According to most analysts, Medicaid expansion would provide a tremendous boon to Florida residents and their economy. Expansion could increase the amount of federal money flowing into the state by some $6.7 billion. Florida hospitals could see an additional $2.1 billion in cost reimbursements. Just as important, estimates suggest that there could be an increase of more than 71,000 jobs throughout the state, and an increase of $8.9 billion in economic activity. That increase in employment and activity would help to generate additional tax revenues for the state as well.
Again, though, the likelihood that the state will expand its Medicaid access now seems extremely remote. It’s more likely that other states will soon be working to deal with a rollback of the current program, as a new administration and Congress move forward with their own plans for health care.
How Do Medicaid Costs Impact Your Life?
At the personal level, Medicaid costs impact each of us in one way or another. If you’re a Florida resident working and paying your taxes, those costs help to ensure that your fellow residents have the care they need to maintain adequate public health. If you’re a senior or approaching the senior years, the money used to pay for benefits could end up being a lifeline that helps to meet the expense of your nursing home care. In short, Medicaid can have an incredibly powerful impact on the lives of taxpayers, needy families, and seniors in need of nursing home assistance.
The cost of Medicaid is thus something that should be of concern to Florida residents and people around the United States. With budgets at both the state and federal levels tightening, and health care costs expected to continue to rise, the task of responsibly shepherding limited resources will be more important than ever. For residents of Florida, uncertainty about the future can only be addressed with sound planning that considers all the most likely outcomes.
At Robert J. Kulas, P.A., Medicaid & Estate Planning Attorneys, our Medicaid planning professionals can work with you to ensure that you’re prepared for the future, regardless of what may come your way. We’ll help you with Medicaid planning that can structure your estate in ways that protect assets while securing benefit eligibility. If you’re concerned about how Medicaid costs might impact your ability to get the care you need, contact us online or call us today at (772) 398-0720.