Government health benefits for some 9 million of the sickest and poorest U.S. citizens will come under scrutiny from the congressional “super committee” seeking to cut the nation’s debt.

Are you or an elderly loved one receiving benefits from Medicare or Medicaid? If yes, then likely you already appreciate the funding problems facing Congress and its appointed “super committee” regarding the future of these programs. However, for many of today’s elderly, certain changes to these programs may be real and immediate. As a result, careful attention to the associated political developments is important. One area of specific focus is “dual-eligibles.”

Seniors receiving aid from both Medicare and Medicaid are so-called “dual-eligibles” and, as such, their benefits are under scrutiny from the super committee. In fact, changes may be in the wings, according to Reuters.

Medicare and Medicaid spend about $300 billion a year for “dual-eligibles,” making them a prime target. Here’s what that means: Roughly 39 percent of the Medicaid program costs and 27 percent of Medicare costs are going to 15% and 16% of program enrollees respectively – and at the same time. Of course, these patients also tend to be the ones in the greatest need, with half of them under treatment for five or more chronic conditions.

What’s going to happen? As usual, that’s far from clear. Many states and insurers are pushing for managed care options to handle all aspects of care. This would help reduce the present bureaucratic overlap and, hopefully, cut costs. On the other hand, there are the detractors.

The problem of dual-eligibles is likely to continue to rise in budget and debt discussions, along with a host of other little issues. What can you do? Keep a close eye (and open ear) on the decision-making process (and the decision-makers), especially if those changes may threaten your health care. It probably wouldn’t hurt to contact your representatives in Congress.

Reference: Reuters (September 28, 2011) “Debt panel eyes dual Medicare/Medicaid patients


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