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Medicare and Medicaid: Essential Partners for Older Americans and People with Disabilities

April 2011

While most people know that Medicare is a program that helps Americans over age 65 and people with disabilities access quality and affordable health care, many people, including Medicare consumers themselves, do not realize that Medicaid programs also provide essential assistance for this population. For example, Medicare does not cover long-term care, so many people with Medicare rely on Medicaid for such services. Also, Medicare alone can be extremely expensive due to high cost-sharing. As an example, consider that median out-of-pocket spending as a share of income for the Medicare population grew from 11.9 percent in 1997 to 16.2 percent in 2006. This means that individuals with incomes of $20,000 per year, about half of the Medicare populations, spend an average of $3,240 per year on health insurance.