Medicaid Coverage 'Cliff' Increases Expenses And Decreases Care For Near-Poor Medicare Beneficiaries

Health Aff (Millwood). 2021 Apr;40(4):552-561. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2020.02272.


Cost sharing in traditional Medicare can consume a substantial portion of the income of beneficiaries who do not have supplemental insurance from Medicaid, an employer, or a Medigap plan. Near-poor Medicare beneficiaries (with incomes more than 100 percent but less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level) are ineligible for Medicaid but frequently lack alternative supplemental coverage, resulting in a supplemental coverage "cliff" of 25.8 percentage points just above the eligibility threshold for Medicaid (100 percent of poverty). We estimated that beneficiaries affected by this supplemental coverage cliff incurred an additional $2,288 in out-of-pocket spending over the course of two years, used 55 percent fewer outpatient evaluation and management services per year, and filled fewer prescriptions. Lower prescription drug use was partly driven by low take-up of Part D subsidies, which Medicare beneficiaries automatically receive if they have Medicaid. Expanding eligibility for Medicaid supplemental coverage and increasing take-up of Part D subsidies would lessen cost-related barriers to health care among near-poor Medicare beneficiaries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cost Sharing
  • Health Expenditures
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Insurance, Medigap
  • Medicaid*
  • Medicare*
  • United States