Medicare Giveth, Medicaid Taketh Away

Six months ago the administration blamed a “scrivener’s error” for a regulation that would have dropped 8 million of the most vulnerable Americans from Medicaid eligibility and said it would fix the problem.

According to several state Medicaid directors, however, that promise has not been kept and there is a surge of children and elderly Americans losing coverage because they could not produce proper identification – papers hard to come by if you are an undocumented alien, homeless, a foster child or institutionalized.

Some analysts blame the loss of coverage on the fact that undocumented immigrants chose not to apply for Medicaid for fear of deportation. But the state health officials say the sudden dropoff, and cost saving, comes from eligible people who simply do not have the right papers.

Things are not quite so tough for the poorest of the Medicare recipients confronted with the confusion of the Part D prescription drug program. The administration, citing inadequate information, has just decided not to make about 500,000 of them pay penalty fees for signing up late.

There may be some coincidental reason children are being lopped off the Medicaid rolls while seniors are being added to Medicare, programs run by the same agency, but it is useful to remember which group has the right to vote.

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