Gov. Deval Patrick’s signature on a supplemental budget on Oct. 15 has resulted in the release of an estimated 2,142 elders from a home care waiting list. The federal funding was delayed on Beacon Hill for more than two months after President Barack Obama signed the Medicaid matching funds into law. Congress had trouble passing the bill over the summer because of a partisan filibuster on Capital Hill. But as of last night, most of the waiting list became history.
“This is like Independence Day for these seniors,” said Al Norman, the Executive Director of Mass Home Care, who has been lobbying since last June for the $5.4 million in funding that was just released by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs Oct. 18.
The funding released was half of what the home care program lost in the early summer, when the supplemental federal funds were delayed by Republican members in the House of Representatives. The governor chose to veto $10.8 million in home care funds, because the federal dollars to pay for the care had not be passed.
The lobbying for these funds began at the office of Sen. Scott Brown R-Mass. last summer, but ended on Beacon Hill. Brown never did vote in favor of releasing the federal funds — which included the home care money. The Democratic-controlled Congress passed the funding over Brown’s objections.
According to Norman, in addition to a wait list release, an estimated 2,700 elders who might have gone on a waiting list over the next 8 ½ months will be served instead. “We will be able to allow some new clients into the program,” Norman explained.
But Norman warned that if Question 3 passes, all bets are off. “If the state’s revenues implode because of the ballot questions, we could be staring at a huge waiting list in the near future,” Norman said. “It makes caring for seniors very difficult — not knowing from one day to the next how much money you have to operate with.” Norman said Mass Home Care is urging a NO vote on Questions 1, 2, and 3. “It’s easy to remember,” Norman said: “Just vote No all all 3 ballot questions.”
There are three major home care programs in Massachusetts, serving an estimated 42,000 seniors each month. The program provides personal care supports, such as help with bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, and walking. The program also provides help with house cleaning, shopping, transportation, and chores. The program was created in 1974, and has suffered the ups and downs of recessions because home care is not considered an entitlement like nursing facility care.
“Even though our state has an official ‘community first’ policy,” Norman said, “it seems the community programs are the first to get cut. Some of these seniors have been waiting for months for a little care at home.”
Norman said Elder Affairs moved promptly after the Governor signed the supplemental budget into law. He said it will take some weeks to process all the individuals who have been kept waiting.
“Calls are being made now to elders who probably never thought they’d get into the program. That’s the kind of call we love to make,” Norman concluded.
For more information go online to www.masshomecare.org