FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Lawrence Curry
Curry concerned over changes to how home care is provided
Worries some cost-saving proposals could cost seniors their independence
HARRISBURG, May 4 – State Rep. Lawrence Curry is concerned that changes in how home- and community-based services are provided could harm seniors and those with disabilities.
Consumers and providers testified at a House Human Services Committee meeting in Harrisburg Thursday, which Curry attended, that changes in how caregivers are paid and how services are provided through the Office of Long Term Living are causing confusion for consumers and, in some cases, payless paydays for their caregivers.
"I am concerned that changes initiated by the state Department of Public Welfare are taking away the ability of senior citizens and those with disabilities to receive the care that best suits their needs," said Curry, D-Montgomery/Phila. "We heard at the hearing that changes are delaying services, forcing some into nursing homes because they just can't wait any longer for home-based care."
Act 22 of 2011 was passed with the fiscal year 2011-12 budget last June, and granted the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare unprecedented authority to change and/or cut programs to achieve one-quarter of a billion dollars of savings, whether through changes in eligibility, benefits, copayments, provider rates or provider qualifications. DPW is not required to go through the formal regulatory review process in making these changes, nor do they require any legislative oversight.
"Agencies that provide services to our senior citizens are telling me how negatively they are being impacted by Act 22, which I did not support," Curry said.
As Democratic chairman of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, of most concern to Curry is a proposed change to the Aging Waiver, which provides home-based services for 19,000 frail seniors through the Office of Long Term Living.
Currently, local area agencies on aging assess a senior’s level of care to determine whether their condition makes them clinically eligible for a nursing facility level of care. Care managers then provide counseling to determine the range of programs a senior may be eligible for and begin the enrollment process.
Testifiers at the hearing relayed that DPW’s proposal would change this comprehensive, one-stop shop care management role with a process that will be fraught with unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles for seniors and their families who want access to home- and community-based services.
Curry recently sent a letter to the Office of Long Term Living concerned that the changes would not only reduce the number of hours case workers spend with seniors, but also could force seniors to be handed off from one provider to another in an effort to get the help they need.
"With every handoff, there is a delay in services," testified Crystal Lowe, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging Inc., Harrisburg. "If services are not available, then our experience shows that families will make the most expeditious choice which is nursing home care."
Curry thanked state Reps. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, and Mark Cohen, D-Phila., chairmen of the House Human Services Committee, for holding the informational meeting, and for inviting members of the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee to participate.
Curry is further reviewing the testimony from Thursday's hearing to see what could be done to ensure seniors and those with disabilities are able to continue receiving the most appropriate care in the most appropriate setting.