More long-term care options pushed

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By XINJUAN DENG
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan can improve long-term care by providing more home and community-based services as alternatives to nursing home care, AARP Michigan says, but an industry group cautions that nursing facilities are crucial to the state’s health care system.
According to the AARP, 35 states spend fewer Medicaid dollars on nursing home care than Michigan. Those states’ services include aides and nurses who visit seniors in their homes.
Lisa Cooper, manager of advocacy at AARP Michigan, said, “Michigan currently spends only 21.6 percent of our long-term care budget for older adults and people with disabilities on home and community-based services. We spend 78.4 percent of our long-term care dollars on nursing home care.”
The report said nursing homes are expensive and becoming more so. In 2011, $80,300 was the median annual cost of a semi-private room in a Michigan facility.
Cooper said, “If Michigan were to re-balance our system like other states to provide relatively more home and community-based services – which is the setting that people overwhelmingly want – we could save taxpayer dollars and create a system that is economically sustainable.”
However, David LaLumia, president of the Health Care Association of Michigan, said his organization supports the entire long-term care continuum but the public should realize the major role nursing facilities play in ensuring quality care options.
“Caring for more than 40,000 Michigan residents each day, nursing facilities play an integral role in our health care system. Medical care should be provided in the right setting, in the right place, at the right value for an individual’s medical needs,” LaLumia said.
As the state struggles with budget problems, AARP wants to move the discussion of long-term care toward alternatives to nursing homes.
“A long-term care system that begins with the individual and helps people stay in their homes and communities can prevent a costly and unnecessary stay in a nursing home,” said Robert Kolt, AARP Michigan president.
An AARP survey found that an overwhelming majority of Michigan seniors prefer remaining in their homes as long as possible. By one estimate in the report, community-based services, on average, can save $57,338 per participant per year.
Rebalancing the system would provide more substantial support for unpaid family caregivers, who provide most such services. In Michigan, an estimated one of every seven adults cares for an adult relative, according to the report.
But LaLumia said, “There is no way we are going to meet the demand of the future simply by ‘rebalancing.’”
He said it is a great challenge to meet consumers’ personalized demands.
“Currently, our demographics are dramatically changing with baby boomers turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day,” he said.
The Department of Community Health has five programs that offer in-home services.
For example, through Home and Community-Based Waiver Services, adults who meet income and asset criteria can receive Medicaid-covered services like those provided by nursing homes, but can stay in their own home or another residential setting.
That program is available in Alcona, Alpena, Arenac, Crawford, Cheboygan, Iosco, Montmorency, Ogemaw, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle and Roscom