Medicare & Medicaid are essential to improving the health and economic security of diverse elders
Medicare has been a lifeline for many diverse elders across the United States, giving them access to necessary healthcare they might have otherwise not been able to afford or gone without. Likewise, Medicaid—the single largest payer of long-term care in the nation—is an essential program that offers critical services and supports to older adults, and to those with disabilities, who rely on institutional or in-home health services. Additionally, large numbers of older people of color and LGBT elders nationwide face financial difficulties, making both Medicare and Medicaid critically important to their health and economic well-being.
For Medicare, 46% of Latinos, 43% of Asians, 52% of African Americans over the age of 55 and 92% of American Indians and Alaska Natives are covered by the program (based on different studies); and according to a national health study of LGBT older people, almost all (97%) had some form of healthcare insurance coverage, primarily through Medicare. Without Medicare, many older people of color and LGBT elders would be required to pay for health expenses on their own, to accrue enormous debts, and likely not receive the health care they need.
For Medicaid, many advocates have narrowed in on the importance of Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). One of the biggest opportunities to improve the health of diverse older adults is to expand Medicaid. However, states have the option to “opt out” of Medicaid expansion, potentially denying many diverse older adults the insurance they rely on.
In states that opt out, millions of low-income adults that might have gained Medicaid will remain ineligible for the program—and according to the Kaiser Family Foundation; particularly poor uninsured Black adults residing in the South would remain without coverage. As a result, many immigrant families and older adults who are not yet eligible for a program like Medicare are likely to be missing out on critical health coverage that can protect and support themselves and their families.
We urge all states to expand Medicaid. As a model, we are working with organizations and leaders in Georgia to urge decision makers to expand Medicaid. Learn more by visiting our Georgia page.
To learn more about why Medicare and Medicaid matter to diverse elders, as well as what can be done to preserve and to protect these programs, download our report Securing Our Future: Advancing Economic Security for Elders of Color, American Indian and Native Alaskan Elders, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Elders.