“Home Care First” was the chant heard in the halls of the Massachusetts State House as a coalition of advocacy groups stood in solidarity urging state lawmakers to restore funding to services that keep elderly citizens at home.
Massachusetts faces an estimated $1.5 billion deficit in the 2016 fiscal year’s budget. Since the budget cannot be officially approved with this deficit, some painful cuts necessitate the balancing of the budget.
Advocacy groups for older Americans such as Mass Senior Action Group, AARP Massachusetts, Mystic Valley Elder Services and Mass Home Care made it clear that significant cost savings had already been made by providing home-based care services to elder citizens as opposed to putting them in extremely expensive nursing facilities.
- Community care programs like home care have reduced nursing facility costs by $853 million in 2015 compared to costs in 2000 – all due to 34 percent reduction in the number of patient days in institutions.
- There are an estimated 10,000 empty nursing facility beds today because of community alternatives.
- The per capita use of nursing facility care is 46 percent above the national average (Health Policy Commission, 2011 data).
- There is $63 million in new federal revenues for community based services coming to Massachusetts: ($43 million in Balancing Incentive Payments (BIP) and $20 million from the new 1915i state plan amendment).
Al Norman, executive director of Mass Home Care and Barbara Mann President of Mass Senior Action Council along with other alliance members was calling for the federal funds to be invested in the following initiatives in FY16:
- Give lower middle-class elders the chance to get home care and avoid costlier care by raising the home care income eligibility.
- Increase the personnel and operation funds for ASAPs (Area Senior Assistance Program) which has been frozen for 5 years.
- Expand the federal “Care Transition Coaching” program for high cost patients, to reduce wasteful ER visits and hospital re-admissions.
- Open the “enhanced Home Care Program” to lower middle class elders below 300 percent of the poverty level ($35,010).
- Launch a mobile mental health counseling program to address the needs of seniors with depression and other serious mental illness.
AARP Massachusetts is taking the lead in proposing new legislation, called the CARE Act, which focus on keeping aging parents or loved ones at home and out of costly institutions. It would also require hospitals to coach caregivers on medical tasks that can be managed in a home environment.
Dan O’Leary from Mystic Valley Elder Services, revealed the obvious “secret” namely that keeping elders at home in their communities is an investment that has saved government millions over the last fifteen years.
Senators, and State Representatives were in attendance and offered support and suggestions on how to garner more support to get the desired outcome of funding restoration. –Karen Lynch & Marcia Manong
View a short video of Elder Lobby Day at the State House