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Start planning now for long-term care

One of the most devastating effects of the latest Republican effort to repeal the Obamacare is the effect it will have on long-term care for the elderly and disabled in nursing homes. Pennsylvania’s seniors will be big losers.

Currently, Medicaid funding guarantees coverage for low income elderly and disabled persons who need nursing home care. The Republican bill converts that funding to block grants and caps based on a per capita formula. The sponsors claim this will give states more flexibility in designing health care in their states.

In fact, the bill penalizes states who expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare by taking money currently going to those states, dividing it among all 50 states, and capping it. This shifts Medicaid costs to Pennsylvania.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that this change will cost Pennsylvania more than $11 billion in federal funds between 2020 and 2026. If block grants are not renewed in 2027, Pennsylvania will lose an additional $10 billion.

According to the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, the average cost of nursing homes in the state is $108,000 per year. Many more elderly rely on Medicaid for services that make it possible for them to stay in their home. Sixty-three percent of Pennsylvanians (50,000-plus seniors) rely on Medicaid to pay for nursing home care.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, start making plans to care for them yourself. If you think you will need nursing home care, start buying long-term care insurance, now.

Helen Sheehy, Tyrone

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