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AARON BERNSTINE: Helping more seniors stay in their homes

Our seniors have contributed a great deal to our society and our communities. They’ve lived through a national depression and world war, and helped shape our country into the superpower it is today.

One way that I can help them, and other taxpayers, is by making it easier for individuals to maintain their independence and receive care in their homes.

I recently learned about a disparity in Pennsylvania law that is limiting access to in-home care. In fact, this issue is actually forcing some seniors into nursing homes when home care would have been more appropriate, preferred and less expensive.

Home care has been shown to promote more rapid recovery, greater mobility and an overall better quality of life.

Not only does it benefit the person receiving care, but it saves tax dollars, too.

Pennsylvania saves an estimated $34,000 a year for every person who is served at home instead of in a long-term care facility.

Due to fixed incomes, many seniors must rely on Medicaid, which is funded by taxpayers, to cover some or all of these costs. Currently, when an individual applies for Medicaid, he or she can be “presumed eligible” for nursing home services and receive those services immediately while their Medicaid application is being fully reviewed.

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However, if the individual wishes to receive in-home care, he or she must wait until the application is fully approved, which sometimes takes months. Oftentimes, this delay forces the individual into a nursing home when home care is the better, less costly option.

I introduced legislation to correct this disparity and help more seniors gain access to home care when it’s more cost effective.

My proposal, House Bill 1829, would extend the “presumptive eligibility” to those who meet the qualifications for Medicaid and who wish to remain in their own homes instead of in a more costly and restrictive setting.

The qualifications for care and eligibility criteria would not be changed. Instead, the bill would assist in expediting the approval process for those who wish to receive care at home, as the process already does for nursing home care.

I’m happy to report my bill passed out of the House Health Committee this week and will soon be voted on by the House of Representatives.

By correcting this disparity, we can help seniors applying for Medicaid receive the care they qualify for, in the setting of their choice and save taxpayers money.

(State Rep. Aaron Bernstine represents the 10th Legislative District in Harrisburg)

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