Study Shows Medicaid is Disproportionately Important to Seniors Living in Small Towns and Rural Areas

June 27, 2017

About 15 Percent of Elderly Americans in Small Towns and Rural Areas Rely on Medicaid

Joan Alker, research professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy

(Washington D.C., Tuesday, June 27, 2017) – According to a new study, “Medicaid’s Role for Seniors Living in Small Towns and Rural Areas” from Georgetown University’s Rural Health Policy Project, about 15 percent of elderly Americans in small towns and rural areas rely on Medicaid to supplement their Medicare coverage to help them afford prescription drugs, pay premiums and cost-sharing and cover long-term services.

Nationally, Medicaid is equally important to older Americans living in small towns and rural areas and metropolitan areas, but there are a handful of states where Medicaid plays an out-sized role for seniors living in non-metro areas. The seven states where Medicaid is disproportionately important to seniors living in small towns and rural areas are: Missouri, Alaska, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Arizona, and Maine.

In Alaska and Mississippi, a quarter of seniors in small towns and rural communities benefit from Medicaid, and in five other states—Maine, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama and Kentucky, one fifth of the elderly population receive support, according to the analysis by researchers at Georgetown University.

  • Medicaid is an important lifeline for older adults helping them live independently in their own homes and covering long-term care expenses. Currently, more than a third of older adults ages 65 to 74 and three quarters of those 85 and older require long-term care services. Medicaid paid for half those costs in 2015.
  • The new analysis follows a report published by the Georgetown University Rural Health Policy Project and the University of North Carolina NC Rural Health Research Program that documented the vital role Medicaid plays for children and non-elderly adults who live beyond metro areas. In that report, researchers found that Medicaid assisted a greater share of the population in small town and rural communities than in urban areas. Nationally, the trend differs slightly for the elderly population.

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