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Medicaid Cuts Could Hurt Seniors Most

Much of the country is focused on the debate around repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. However, what hasn’t received nearly as much attention is that the House also passed deep cuts to the federal-state Medicaid program as part of the ACA repeal bill, despite that having nothing to do with repealing or replacing the ACA.

Most people think Medicaid, our nation’s safety net health care program, only serves very low-income children and mothers, and increasingly low-income working adults. In reality, the majority of Medicaid spending provides services and supports to help people with disabilities and older adults simply live their lives.

For older adults and caregivers, Medicaid is the country’s only guaranteed provider of the critical long-term care services that most of us will need as we age. Nearly two-thirds of long-term care provided in nursing homes is paid for by Medicaid. With nursing homes averaging nearly $90,000 per year, without Medicaid, millions of older adults and families would be financially overwhelmed if these services were limited or no longer available.

Medicaid is also important to helping our country address the challenges of a rapidly aging nation. The population of older adults is growing at an historic pace, and over 90 percent of seniors say they would rather age at home and in their communities, where care is often less expensive and often more effective. While less expensive than nursing home care, in-home services are often cost prohibitive for families as well. In our community services such as home care, adult day services, emergency home response service and medical transportation are examples of services Medicaid helps to provide.  It is unfortunate the timing of this change in Medicaid is happening when Illinois has a budget that cannot sustain the current program. It is likely that the only choice for care in Illinois will be nursing homes.  Home and community based services are often a fraction of the cost of nursing home care.

It makes no sense to undermine the only long-term care option available to most Americans just as our country undergoes a transformational demographic shift to an aging nation. If we really want to save federal health care dollars, we should expand the most cost-effective care options instead of eliminating them. Not only do these Medicaid-funded programs preserve the dignity and independence of older adults in the Metro East and across the country, they also save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year in avoided nursing home costs.

Our seniors deserve better!

Joy Paeth

Chief Executive Officer

AgeSmart Community Resources

 

June 13 Illinois Aging Network Alert

  Illinois Aging Network Alert

 A weekly report on the impact of the state budget crisis on Illinois seniors and community programs on aging
From I4A – Illinois Association of Area Agencies on Aging
Week of June13, 2016
Contact: Joy Paeth 618-222-2561 or Jon Lavin 708-383-0258

 When Will Reason Prevail?

 This morning several Directors of Illinois area agencies on aging informed the Illinois Department on Aging that they have developed plans to close down their region’s community senior services network this summer. This information was provided during a phone call where the Department explained that federal funding would stop after reimbursements covering the month of June.  Unless there is a court order or an enacted state appropriation, no federal funds will be processed  for July, August or September. Not all area agencies on aging are in the same situation this summer (AgeOptions would not have federal funding for community based organizations, but will continue state funds for home delivered meals, about half of the meals, if the Court Order continues into July, August and September).  It is clear that many of Illinois’ 230 community senior service agencies will desist operations without federal support.

The biggest problem is that the federal dollars are in jeopardy that come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Administration for Community Living under the U.S. Older Americans Act. The federal appropriation is on a fiscal year that begins October 1, 2015, and concludes September 30, 2016. Under Illinois law, that funding will end on June 30. The Department stated that June reimbursement will come through in early July and then no additional funding is anticipated following that date unless there is a Court order or a state appropriation.

Federal Older Americans Act resources require state match. That match is combined with federal funds to process payments under the Beeks Consent Decree for meals.  Home Delivered Meal funding alone is problematic since it may not be used for administrative purposes.  Area agencies administer the court ordered dollars with their federal dollars and state match under Planning and Service Area Grants to Area Agencies on Aging. Not a penny of Planning and Service Area Grants has been provided this year.

Without the federal and state funding, there will not be a viable Aging Network. Federal law requires that the Illinois Department on Aging send the federal and state matching resources to the 13 designated area agencies on aging for distribution to community service provider agencies. It may not be proper under federal guidelines for the Department on Aging to send the court-ordered Home Delivered Meal funding directly to community agencies. Those agencies have contracts with area agencies on aging, and no contract with the Department. This is a legal, moral, practical, administrative and human mess! When will reason prevail and Illinois act responsibly to pass an agreed budget with adequate resources to meet its legal obligations under the Illinois Constitution?

If no federal dollars are released and no state administrative support to area agencies on aging is provided, the high stakes game of chicken being played out by elected leaders will result in the loss of independence, health and lives of older persons. It is time for politics to be put aside and for leadership and governance to prevail.

 

Distributed for I4A by:

Jonathan Lavin