The development of a long range plan for long term care was the subject of a Thursday forum conducted by AARP of South Carolina, the State Public Health Institute and the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging. Stakeholders, advocates, and elected officials concerned about issues involving seniors also attended the forum. The main concern is that the state’s population of persons 60 and over is expected to reach 1.45 million in 2030 and state spending on long term care will increase to an estimated $729 million in 21 years. Medicaid currently covers about two-thirds of all costs for the state’s nursing home residents. AARP South Carolina Legislative Director Teresa Arnold for the future it is important that services are stepped of for seniors who are able to remain home in order to keep Medicaid expenditures down.Arnold says looking long term one important service that must remain and increase is home delivery of meals for seniors.”Folks who receive home delivered meals in South Carolina have fewer hospital admissions and fewer emergency room admissions than folks who do not, and right there you’re looking at a significant savings to the state with a small investment on the front end.”
Arnold says helping seniors remain at home also makes room in nursing homes for those seniors that for whatever reason can no longer live independently.
AARP Director of Independent Living and Long Term Care Enid Kassner co-authored a recent report that illustrates the economic soundness of state’s placing more funding in Medicaid home and community based services. Kassner says in her research she found that the states that invest in home and community based services have slowed their Medicaid spending far more that the states that have continued to rely on nursing homes.
“We see this as a win-win situation, because we all know survey after survey has shown and discussions with people in our own families have shown that virtually all people would rather stay at home or in their communities for as long as they possibly can. Not that mursing homes aren’t an important component, but we can’t continue to rely on them as the predominant means of service delivery.”
Kassner says in South Carolina, as in many areas of the nation, there are some inherent roadblocks in the Medicaid program that often make it a little more difficult to get people services in their home communities. Kassner points out that people who are qualifying for Medicaid in a nursing home can be found eligible in 14 days, whereas on average for people who are getting home care services it takes 73 days to get their eligibility authorized for the program.
Kassner says that leads many seniors who are fit to stay at home, checking into nursing homes. “What we see too often is once someone goes into a nursing home, then if they can’t get qualified for home care services they end up staying there and they end up staying there longer than necessary. Once they give up their home it can almost be impossible to get them out of that nursing home and back into the community.”
Kassner says the ideal long term care system should give people choice and control over the services they receive, where they are delivered, who delivers them, and to do so in a cost effective manner.