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Aging Waiver Keeps Seniors Home, Saves Money

It’s common sense to believe most older Pennsylvanians prefer remaining in their own homes rather than moving into a nursing home. Study after study show better outcomes and lower costs when elderly adults remain home as long as possible. There is no cost that can measure the peace of mind that comes from staying in your home.

The Campaign for What Works believes that changes must be made in how the Department of Public Welfare administers the Aging Waiver.  This program allows 22,000 seniors to remain in their homes each year, yet arbitrary reimbursement reductions, put in place in 2012, are working against its success. DPW’s actions have forced at least 10 Area Agencies on Aging to end service coordination services that they have provided for nearly 20 years.

The Aging Waiver – overseen by local Area Agencies on Aging – enables seniors to stay home longer while controlling Medicaid costs.  Forcing AAAs out of the service coordination business means that seniors may be unnecessarily forced into expensive nursing homes. Here’s why change is needed:

  1. Better Outcomes at lower costs – Studies have shown home-based care produces better outcomes than institutional care.  Research by Thomas Jefferson University shows that seniors live longer when enrolled in the Aging Waiver, and the costs are much lower. Average annual cost for nursing home care is $59,000 vs. $26,000 for the Aging Waiver.
  2. Family Choice – When it comes to the decision about what to do with Mom or Grandma, families are often in crisis. Families often face the choice to stop working to care for Mom or to send her to a nursing home.  The Aging Waiver, through the involvement of the Area Agencies on Aging, gives thousands of Pennsylvania families better choices.
  3. AAAs know their consumers and serve them well – The recent reimbursement cuts have proven to be catastrophic to the AAAs. At least 10 AAAs have stopped providing Aging Waiver services. Because of the cuts in payment for service coordination services, fewer nurses are available to make sure that our seniors get the right services, and more of the work done by the AAAs is by phone instead of home visits.  Listen to the AAAs – they know our seniors!
  4. End stealing from Peter to pay Paul – To continue to work with seniors and their families to develop care management plans for in-home services under the Aging Waiver, AAAs have been forced to take money on a stop-gap basis from Lottery funds (Peter) to fill the funding gap DPW created with its reimbursement cuts (Paul). With $2 million in new state funding, PA would get another $2 million in matching federal fundsthat are needed to reimburse the AAAs to cover their costs and enable them to stay in the service coordination business for the Aging Waiver.
  5. It’s the right thing to do –Talk with any grandparent and they will tell you two things: “I don’t want to be a burden to my kids and I don’t want to live in a nursing home.” Keeping grandparents in their homes is the right thing to do.

Fixing the ‘Aging Waiver’ program is what works for Pennsylvania.