KAI RYSSDAL: Medicaid's got a deal for you. The Department of Health and Human Services announced a new policy today. They say it's going to improve care for seniors and the disabled. States will be able to apply for close to two billion dollars in grant money to send those patients home. Marketplace's Lisa Napoli has more.
LISA NAPOLI: Right now, 70 percent of Medicaid's long-term care dollars go to pay for institutional care. That's more expensive and less desirable to the patient than home care. The government's banking on saving money with this new program.
Mark McClellan heads up the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He says pilot programs have shown the benefits:
MARK MCCLELLAN: We have seen that this program can save money and make Medicaid more sustainable but most important is the control it gives to the people with the disability so they can have better health and better lives.
McClellan says the program will give states grant money starting in January. That money will cover 75-90 percent of the state's costs of moving patients who want out of institutions back home. That's a lot more than states get now.
Diane Roland of the Kaiser Family Foundation says with baby-boomers aging, this could ultimately cost more than it saves:
DIANE ROLAND: In the end it will only save money if the numbers of people in the community who benefit aren't so large that they dwarf any savings.
Jonathan Winer of Johns Hopkins University says the new emphasis on home care is a sign Medicaid's bracing itself:
JONATHAN WINER: This is probably a nose under the tent to get states and private programs more interested in providing these services.
Winer says balancing the roles of the government, private sector and the family in long-term care is a huge issue on the horizon.
No one's sure ultimately if it'll increase out-of-pocket costs for families.
In Los Angeles, I'm Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.