Touting Corbett's increased funds for aging services

Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Brian Duke
Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Brian Duke
Posted: April 02, 2014

Pennsylvania Aging Secretary Brian Duke visited a retirement community Monday on Roosevelt Boulevard to talk up the governor's current and proposed budget, saying how committed the governor was to aging services.

In the current budget, Duke said, the governor increased funding for aging services by $50 million - $20 million of that going to reduce waiting lists for home and community-based services through what is known as the Options program.

This is funding, through the Department of Aging, using lottery money for home-delivered meals, adult day care, and other home and community services.

"We had about 7,000 statewide on a waiting list for services so they can stay in homes and communities," Duke told about 50 people at Wesley Enhanced Living Pennypack Park.

He estimated that by summer, the waiting list would be down to 1,700 people statewide.

Duke also said Corbett provided an increase of $21 million in the current budget to the Department of Public Welfare for Medicaid waivers.

This is welfare money. It is normally earmarked to pay for nursing homes for residents who are sick enough and poor enough to qualify. Corbett allowed the money instead to pay for home and community-based services that would keep Pennsylvanians in their own homes.

Holly Lange, who heads the Philadelphia Corp. for Aging, praised this step for helping more people stay out of nursing homes.

But in 2012, she said, the state changed how it allocates money to county agencies like hers to evaluate those eligible for the waiver and to coordinate their care.

The new formula cuts reimbursements, Lange said, making it much harder for county agencies to administer these programs. She said she had to lay off 25 nurses and divert lottery funds - which should be used for other aging services - to help run a welfare program: the Medicaid waiver.

Lange said that she spoke with counterparts Monday in the Southeastern suburban counties and that they faced the same hardship.

She said the head of the Department of Public Welfare, Beverly Mackereth, was sympathetic to their predicament and has been working county agencies to find a solution. "The secretary is listening," Lange said. "Where it's going to end up, I don't know."

 People generally prefer to receive care at home, and the cost to taxpayers is much less.

Duke said he believed Pennsylvania's disabled population was now divided about equally between residential care and nursing-home care. But, he said, 70 percent of elderly people receiving care are in nursing homes.



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