Bipartisan Effort Expands Community Care For Elders

Representatives Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) and Barry Finegold (D-Andover) announced yesterday that the House unanimously approved Medicaid reforms that will help seniors who wish to remain in their communities and stay out of nursing homes. Implementation of the proposed change in Medicaid eligibility is expected to save the state at least $12 million annually by expanding the home and community based waiver program to include elders currently receiving services without any federal matching funds.

The change in waiver rules, originally proposed by Representatives L’Italien and Michael E. Festa (D-Melrose), will allow the state to receive a 50 % federal reimbursement under Medicaid for the 3,200 elders who are now being served entirely at state expense. The plan calls for raising the income eligibility level from $769 a month, to $1,656 per month (300% of SSI).

“This change is designed to remove the institutional biases that may unnecessarily push seniors toward institutionalization,” Representative L’Italien declared. “It is a good day for the people of Massachusetts when we can move forward in terms of addressing the needs of our elder population while at the same time securing much needed funds to serve this population,” she added.

Massachusetts currently ranks 6th in the nation for Medicaid members over the age of 65 who are in nursing homes. This measure will shift the focus of care from the current over-reliance on institutions to the community.

“This is a win-win situation,” stated Representative Finegold. “We have found the best solution for both seniors and taxpayers.”

Al Norman, Executive Director of Mass Home Care, commended the House for this success in expanding community care.

Jack Hall, representative for Mass Home Care, stated: “We are very grateful for the hard work of the Legislature on this important issue. This is a huge win for seniors.”

This program will not expand unless the federal government approves the waiver first, thereby ensuring cost savings. The measure now moves to the Senate where Legislators expect to act on it by the end of next week.