Medicaid mostly covers kids and moms. It mostly spends on the elderly and disabled.

September 6, 2012

Aaron Carroll is doing some great work today blogging about the nuts and blots of Medicaid, which tends to get less media coverage than Medicare. I especially liked this post that helps explain what, exactly, Medicaid spends money on.

The vast majority of Medicaid's enrollees are who you'd expect: Low income women and children. They account for 76 percent of Medicaid's beneficiaries, 51 million of the 67 million people the program covers.

Those are the lion's share of the Medicaid program's enrollees. But those aren't Medicaid's big spenders. That title is held by the aged and disabled. Here's Carroll's breakdown of enrollment in spending in Medicaid.

The contrast is pretty stark: There are more than twice as many children enrolled on Medicaid as there are blind and disabled beneficiaries. In stark spending terms, however, the blind and disabled account for a significantly bigger share.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has another nice breakdown. They looked at the Medicaid beneficiaries who use long-term care services - and tend to have more complicated health care issues - compared to those who do not. This is a pretty small group but, again, they make up a very big share of the federal government's Medicaid spending.

This is the idea that President Bill Clinton was getting at in his prepared remarks for Wednesday night, which said, "Almost two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for seniors and on people with disabilities." The line came out a bit differently as delivered, in a way that made it inaccurate, but the general concept still stands: Medicaid's big spenders are not its most plentiful beneficiaries.

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