People with disabilities may receive benefits from several federal health programs. Medicare covers a broad range of health services for people with permanent disabilities as well those 65 or older, although it does not cover most prescription drugs or long-term care. Medicaid covers people with disabilities who have low incomes by supplementing Medicare and providing certain long-term care services.
Like Medicaid, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is jointly funded by federal and state governments. SCHIP covers children in low-income families ineligible for Medicaid, and (in some states) their parents. There also are federal health programs for specific groups such as veterans and Indians. In addition, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are federal agencies that fund health research and public health education.
The federal government provides income tax incentives to buy private insurance for health and long-term care services. But the federal government has a limited role in regulating the operation of private insurance, which is done mainly by the states. Nevertheless, Congress is considering the regulation of managed-care health plans such as Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs).
In addition to managed-care patients' rights, Congress may soon act on other health issues, including expanding programs for people without health insurance and adding a drug benefit to Medicare. But with healthcare prices rising faster than overall inflation and the population's rapid aging, adequate funding for federal health programs poses a major challenge.