Rich, Poor, Singles, and Couples. Who Receives Medicaid in Old Age and Why?

Source: Margherita Borella, Mariacristina De Nardi, Eric French, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w21873, January 2016
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From the abstract:
We use the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) data set to study who receives Medicaid in old age and why. First, we conduct a descriptive analysis of Medicaid recipiency along a number of important observables. This analysis shows that, while fewer people with high permanent income receive Medicaid, a significant fraction of high permanent income people receive Medicaid at very old ages. It also shows that more single people receive Medicaid than people in couples, that people who just lost their spouse rapidly become very similar in their Medicaid recipiency and other important observable characteristics to people who have been single for much longer, and that bad health commoves with Medicaid recipiency. Finally, this analysis shows even people having long-term care insurance end up on Medicaid, but that the fraction of people in this group that is on Medicaid is one-third that of the entire population of the elderly. Second, multivariate regression analysis allows us to disentangle the effects of many observables on Medicaid recipiency while conditioning for others and reveals several interesting patterns. First, permanent income and other variables capturing economic background have a major role in determining individuals’ Medicaid coverage and explain much of the observed differences in Medicaid recipiency among singles, couples, and people who recently lost their spouse. Second, impairments in the activities of daily living and residency in a nursing home have a large effect on the probability of being on Medicaid, with the effect of nursing home residency being relatively large for those in the middle and upper income groups. Lastly, having long-term care insurance has no independent effect on the probability of ending up on Medicaid.