Countdown to Elder Home Care Wait Lists

On Sept. 1, waiting lists for some residents over the age of 60 will begin in the state’s elder home care program. An estimated 150 to 200 elders per month will be put on wait lists, accumulating to 2,000 elders waiting by June of 2017. By the close of this fiscal year, the cutbacks will represent a loss of up to 11,000 months of in-home care.

This is the third home care wait list since 2009. Nursing facilities are never put on a wait list footing. There are more than 15,000 empty nursing facility beds in Massachusetts.
“The sad thing,” says Mass Home Care Executive Director Al Norman, “is that there is enough money on hand today to put a stop to waiting lists.”

According to Mass Home Care, the Association which represents the 26 Aging Services Access Points who manage the elder program, this is a “manufactured crisis” that could have been avoided, because the state has Federal Community First dollars sitting in a trust fund that could serve all those in need.

The so-called “managed intake” process will affect the entire state, and will be applied in a uniform way. Waiting lists are necessary because the General Court cut the home care appropriation for FY 17 by $3.5 million below previous year’s maintenance levels, and demand in some programs continues to rise.

According to the Executive Office of Elders Affairs, elders who have “a critical unmet need for meal preparation” will be put on a waiting list—regardless of where they live in the state. Every elder who applies for home care is assigned a “priority level” based on their need for service.

The state is also cutting off funding for the “Intensive Care Management” program, which helps seniors with behavior health problems to receive care. In addition, a pilot program approved by the General Court to provide up to $1 million to help seniors with income slightly over the home care eligibility limit will not be funded.

After the FY 17 budget was finalized, Governor Charlie Baker filed on July 11th a supplemental budget, which added $4 million in federal Community First trust fund money to the home care account–but backed out $4 million in state funds—leaving the bottom line the same.

“We know the state has the funds needed to prevent waiting lists on September 1st,” Norman said. “This federal money is supposed to be used to provide new opportunities to serve more individuals in home and community-based settings, not to offset state spending.”

Mass Home Care has asked the General Court to purpose $3 million of this Community First funding to alleviate the wait list–but the formal session adjourned with no action on this request.

“We hope they act quickly—on September 1st we start turning some elders away,” Norman said.

SOURCE: Mass Home Care