The Feb. 21 newspaper ran a story headlined “State’s Medicaid rates fifth in nation” by Clarke Canfield of the Associated Press.

The article lamented that Maine had the nation’s fifth-highest Medicaid rate, and that our Medicaid expenses per year were 61 percent higher than the national average.

The author didn’t mention that Maine is also the “oldest” state in the nation, which undoubtedly affects our higher use of Medicaid, as well as our higher per resident Medicaid expenses.

Medicaid pays for nursing home care and/or other medical needs of low-income elderly. Except for short-term care immediately following discharge from a hospital, Medicaid, not Medicare, pays for nursing home care.

When other elderly people in nursing homes have remained there long enough to exhaust their assets and the cost exceeds their incomes, their care also is paid by Medicaid (www.medicare.gov/Nursing/Paym ent.asp).

Being the oldest state might help to account for Maine’s high Medi-caid rate, and high Medicaid expenses.

It also would help if we knew the average income of the elderly in Maine compared to that of the elderly in other states. If our elderly have an average income lower than that in the states we are compared to, that’s a factor, too.

The governor and the Legislature need to know what all the factors are before making decisions to change our eligibility guidelines based on comparisons with other states.

Statistics can be made to “prove” almost anything we want them to “prove,” but there are correct ways to make comparisons and incorrect ways to do it.

Jane Edwards, Vassalboro

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