Urgent call to fund elder home care industry in Connecticut
by: Jodi Latina
Conn. (WTNH) — Nationwide more than 3.5 million older adults receive “Medicaid home and community-based services.” But there are gaps in coverage among states. It’s a topic policymakers in Washington D.C. are trying to fix.
Here in Connecticut, there is an urgent call to increase funding for “home care”. The industry was left out of the state budget. It’s a Care Economy many seniors rely on to live out their golden years safely at home.
Retiring and enjoying life can be complicated. Especially, if you are one of the 25,000 Connecticut residents on Medicaid – a government subsidy for low-income seniors and the disabled.
Ann Wilson, a Client Services Manager for Companions & Homemakers says of seniors, “They are vulnerable, they want to be at home and they’re scared about being in a situation where they’re unable to be at home.”
She says seniors who decide to “age in place” at home with a caretaker save the state taxpayer dollars.
The Connecticut Association for Health Care at Home estimates the state saved more than $500-million in 2019 and $2.5-billion over the last decade through the home care sector.
Tracy Wodatch, the President & CEO of the CT Association for Health Care at Home, is frustrated with state leaders. “They don’t reinvest yet we are a huge cost-saving vehicle for the state.”
Home care services are expensive and increases in the reimbursement rate have lagged.
“For our home health care providers, 14 years we’ve received a 1% increase in that entire time,” added Wodatch.
Medicaid reimbursement for home care is controlled by the state. There was no boost included in the governor’s budget for the Home Care industry.
The group sent a letter to Gov. Ned Lamont and key lawmakers urging them to increase the rate saying, “The current situation is at a critical stage. Rates are inadequate to maintain the necessary home care workforce putting seniors at risk while imposing additional costs to the State.”
A top lawmaker tells News 8 it’s too early to talk about an increase – with a labor contract ready to expire next month.
“Our answer is always ‘please let’s figure it out, let’s keep them [clients] home’,” according to Wodatch.
Under financial pressure, 62 non-medical providers have already said they will reduce or stop taking Medicaid clients if the numbers don’t work out.
A scenario Amy Wilson is concerned about. “To force them [clients] because there’s no other alternative because funding is not available to say that you have to go into an institutional nursing care setting is just very scary.”
There are still several buckets of federal money, between the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) and Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) which the governor and lawmakers will be talking about over the summer – trying to decide where it’s best to leverage the dollars.
The home care industry is not the only one that is fighting for those precious dollars.