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Improving Coverage for Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries

Medicare, the federal program that provides health insurance for approximately 39 million elderly and disabled Americans, is widely regarded as one of the nation's most successful public programs. Yet its failure to provide a comprehensive insurance package has left gaps in coverage that beneficiaries&#8212or others on their behalf&#8212must fill. The poor are particularly hard-hit, since they lack the financial resources to supplement Medicare.s coverage.

Medicaid, the federal-state program that covers health and long-term care for certain categories of the poor, does provide additional benefits for low-income elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries who are eligible for traditional Medicaid coverage. However, because the states set their own Medicaid eligibility standards, some low-income Medicare beneficiaries&#8212even those with incomes that fall within federal poverty guidelines&#8212do not qualify for this additional coverage. Even for beneficiaries with incomes above the poverty level,Medicare's premium and cost-sharing responsibilities can be unduly burdensome.


Publication Details



Improving Coverage for Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries, Marilyn Moon, Niall Brennan, and Misha Segal, The Commonwealth Fund, August 1998