New Castle News

Closer Look

October 28, 2012

John K. Manna: Data shows most welfare money goes to elderly, disabled

I seldom comment on another columnist, but I couldn’t resist responding to a column written by Larry Kudlow.

In the column that appeared this week in The News, Kudlow wrote about how government spending has increased under President Obama in the last four years, primarily with welfare spending and specifically with Medicaid.

Between 2008 and 2011, he said, “Health payments, principally Medicaid, have climbed 37 percent.”

There is no doubt spending has increased, but there is a misconception about welfare spending. Mention the word welfare and some people think of a bunch of freeloaders sponging off the system.

Welfare costs definitely cover people with dependent children and those who don’t work. And there probably are some who are physically able, but have no desire to work. However, it’s not the only area included in welfare spending and certainly not the biggest slice of the pie.

Rather, a major piece of the Medicaid pie goes toward the elderly and people with disabilities. In fact, according to the state House Appropriations Committee, the greatest share of Medicaid spending in Pennsylvania is for the elderly and people with disabilities, “reflecting their intensive use of acute and long-term care services.”

Although those two groups represent 38 percent of all Medicaid recipients, they account for more than two-thirds of Medicaid spending in the state.

A big chunk of the money covers people in nursing homes. When people exhaust their life savings or are indigent, Medicaid takes over and pays for their care in these facilities.

Many of them are people who have paid their dues, people who have worked a good part of their lives and raised families. The least society can do for them is to see that they receive proper care.

In addition, nursing homes also have individuals who are under 60, but require services due to a disability or degenerative disease.

So, for those who are critical of the increase in Medicaid costs, they have to look at the entire picture, which includes covering services for the elderly and disabled. It, therefore, begs the question: What’s the alternative?


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