Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell is warning lawmakers that failing to prepare for South Carolina’s growing senior population — which he called a “gray tsunami”– could cause a severe budget crisis in the next decade or so.
McConnell, who oversees the state Office on Aging as part of his job, told a joint session of the legislature Wednesday that South Carolina’s senior population is expected to double over the next 15 years, from 900,000 to nearly 2 million people by 2030.
McConnell said he did not realize how severe the issue was until he took over the position “I learned that there was what was coined a “gray tsunami” headed our way,” he said. “A possible human calamity if proper action was not taken.”
He called on lawmakers to put more money into home-delivered meals, transportation, and other programs to keep seniors living at home, rather than focusing on nursing homes and other forms of assisted living. McConnell said those programs cost the state about $1,400 per senior on average, compared with about $52,000 for a nursing home bed through Medicaid.
McConnell warns about “gray tsunami” (6:26) :
McConnell has requested an additional $4.7 million for home-based programs in next year’s budget, which will be taken up by the state Senate in a few weeks.
“One way or another we are going to end up paying for it. So my appeal is, why not be smart on the front end by being proactive?” he told legislators. “Yet, with all of these challenges before us, the state has continued to dump the hundreds of millions into the unchanging Medicaid system. Which is very rigid (and) each year needs more and more money.”
It is the first time an elected official has addressed the General Assembly for a “State on the Aging Population” speech.