An elder rights group says that seniors will be put on a wait list for home care as a result of cuts made in the final days of the FY 17 budget process.
“We need to reduce our caseload by 628 elders per month for the entire year,” explained Mass Home Care President Greg Giuliano. “The General Court left us roughly $4 million short of what we need to maintain our current home care programs.”
Giuliano said the Conference Committee budget sent to the Governor produced an appropriation lower than either the House or Senate versions of the budget.
“Usually lawmakers compromise on a number between the high and low mark—but this year they went below the low mark—and guaranteed waiting lists,” said Giuliano.
Elder Home Care begins FY 17 facing a shortfall that translates into 349 elders per month in the enhanced home care program, and 279 elders per month in basic home care, for a total of 628 elders per month in FY 17 who will not receive needed services.
The Governor vetoed language that would require MassHealth to apply for two state plan amendments that would bring in more than $20 million in new federal revenue that could be used for home care services. Giuliano said this veto “leaves federal dollars on the table at a time we are cutting elders off home care.”
Although lawmakers agreed to a $1.075 million home care expansion for the “near poor” who are slightly over the program’s income cap, Giuliano said he is concerned that advocates will have to fight to make the program happen.
Waiting lists for home care have been a chronic problem for the elderly, Giuliano said. In FY 2013, for example, as many as 2,000 elders were on a wait list for home care for much of the program year.
“We say Massachusetts is a ‘community first’ state, Giuliano said, “but in most parts of the state there is no wait to get into a nursing facility. These home care cuts send exactly the wrong message to families.” Nursing home use has dropped more than one-third since the year 2000 Giuliano said, largely due to home care services, but access to home care too often is sporadic.
“We can keep five or six elders in home care for the cost of one person in an institution,” Giuliano said, “so closing off home care is financially a bad deal for taxpayers.”
Mass Home Care said it will urge lawmakers to restore the cuts in home care funding through a supplemental budget, restore the state plan amendment language cut by the Governor, and push for implementation of the $1 million ‘near poor’ home care pilot project.
SOURCE: Mass Home Care