The Republican attempt to re-write the US health-care system is the main story in Washington this week, and the focus is largely on how the bill cuts spending on Medicaid, the health program for poorer Americans. But the cuts will actually affect a far wider swathe of the country—potentially, anyone elderly who isn’t pretty wealthy, and their families.
The bill hangs in the balance on this issue. Some Republican lawmakers, like Nevada’s senator Dean Heller, say the cuts are too deep, while a band of ultra-conservative senators, including Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee, say they don’t go far enough. (Democrats are universally opposed to the bill, written behind closed doors without any committee hearings or floor debate.)
Medicaid plays a huge role in providing for elderly Americans who have, in effect, outlived their savings. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation show that in 2015, 62% of the more than 1.3 million Americans in skilled-nursing facilities paid for their stay and care with Medicaid dollars. Medicare, the program for the elderly, covered only 14% of them.