Serving Low-Income Seniors Where They Live: Medicaid’s Role in Providing Community-Based Long-Term Services and Supports

Seniors managing chronic health conditions or experiencing an age-related decline in physical or cognitive functioning may need long-term services and supports (LTSS) to complete daily self-care activities (such as eating, bathing or dressing) or household activities (such as preparing meals or doing laundry). LTSS include a range of services, including adult day health care programs, home health aide services, personal care services, and case management services, among others. LTSS needs may be met through both paid services and unpaid services provided by friends or family members. While some people who need LTSS choose or require care based in nursing facilities, most people with LTSS needs live in the community. (See related videos on seniors with LTSS needs inVirginia and Kansas.)

Medicare is the primary source of health insurance for nearly all seniors, but the program does not cover LTSS, and few Medicare beneficiaries have private insurance that covers these services. For some low-income Medicare beneficiaries (called “dual eligible beneficiaries”), Medicaid fills this gap by providing wraparound coverage for a range of services, including LTSS. Helping these individuals remain in the community rather than reside in a nursing facility is a goal of both beneficiaries and states, in part due to the Americans with Disabilities Act’s community integration mandate. Understanding the community-based LTSS population served by Medicaid is important for designing effective care delivery systems, particularly as states are increasingly developing new systems of integrated and managed care for this population, and because Medicaid is the nation’s primary payer for LTSS.

– Kaiser Family Foundation

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