The General Assembly’s nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office released a report on the anticipated state budget deficit over the next two years. It’s not pretty, anticipating a $3 billion shortfall.
One of the major expenditures in each budget is the Medicaid program, accounting for nearly 23 percent of all spending. Of that, long-term care services primarily for older adults account for 21 percent. That cost is going to go up since Pennsylvania’s over-85 population is the fastest growing segment in the commonwealth — increasing at 10 times the rate of all other segments.
These costs will continue to be an anchor on our state budget, but we believe there’s a way to slow the rate of budget increases in caring for older adults, and benefit consumers.
If a person with limited financial means needs around-the-clock assistance and does not have community supports to be cared for at home, the only option is to qualify for Medicaid and be placed in a nursing facility. What many don’t know is that person could be cared for in an assisted living facility for half the cost, but Pennsylvania doesn’t include assisted living in the Medicaid program. We conservatively estimate the government could save nearly $100 million or more annually if people could access assisted living instead of inappropriately being placed in a nursing facility.
Including assisted living in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program helps the consumer, their loved ones and taxpayers. It’s time to make assisted living an option for low-income citizens who need full-time services.
Ron Barth, Mechanicsburg
Ron Barth is president and CEO LeadingAge PA.