Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Real Medicaid Reform for NJ Seniors - Expanding Home Based Care

Category: Elder Law

A new proposed law may give New Jersey seniors who require assistance with their care more reasonable choices. At present, the Medicaid system is skewed towards nursing home care - the availability of Medicaid as a financing source for assisted living or home based care is extremely limited. As a result, seniors who do not require a nursing home level of care are being forced to a nursing home to get the care they do need. This is a huge waste of state and federal resources, as the cost of the care being provided eclipses the cost of the care needed - typically bureaucracy. However, as this article from the CourierPostOnline points out, there may now be hope to be able to match care with needs at less cost.

Courtesy of: CourierPostOnline - South Jersey's Web Site:

"As soon as 2008, elderly and disabled New Jerseyans in every county may
get a choice in the type of long-term care they receive through Medicaid, under
a bill introduced in the state Legislature Monday.

The legislation seeks to reallocate Medicaid funds in order to balance the amount of money put toward home- and community-based programs with that spent for institutional care.

Currently, about 82 percent of funding goes toward institutional care, while
about 17 percent goes toward those living at home, said Terrence Duffy, adjunct
professor at Rutgers University's Graduate School of Social Work and member of
the Elder Rights Coalition of New Jersey.

Backers of the bill say at-home care and community-based care are cheaper than institutional care. They also say people healthy enough to live at home if home health aides, day programs and other alternative care options were available are sometimes forced into nursing homes.

That's 'because of where money is allocated,' Sy Larson, president of the New Jersey chapter of AARP, said at a State House news conference announcing the bill.

"It's a wrenching thing for a lot of people who for medical reasons and sometimes mental reasons need care, but they certainly do not require being put into an institution," said Martin Cramer, co-chairman of the Elder Rights Coalition.

The proposed law would set up a pilot program in Atlantic and Warren counties by next January. If successful, it would be extended to all 21 counties by 2008.

New Jersey's "aging population will be booming over the next decade," said bill sponsor Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck. She said the number of New Jerseyans 60 and older is now about 1.6 million but is forecast to double in the next 25 years.

Compared with $70,000 per year for a nursing home, it costs about $20,000 per year for a senior or disabled adult to be enrolled five days a week in the Atlantic County day program called CARING Inc., said bill sponsor Assemblyman Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic City. "We can reach that many more patients by the money we save," Whelan said.

About 14 other states have similar laws, Duffy said.


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