Weighing the true costs of cutting homecare services

JACKSON, Wyo. — The Wyoming Legislature will face a staggering $750 million budget deficit in the next session, and advocates for older residents are urging lawmakers to resist cuts to home and community-based services that save taxpayers millions each year by allowing people to avoid more expensive care at skilled nursing facilities.

Tom Lacock with AARP Wyoming says in order for older residents to age in place they need home healthcare, help with chores, bathing, and other community-based services.

“That when delivered actually in the home, as opposed to being delivered in a skilled nursing facility, help folks remain independent. The nice side effect in doing that is the fact that they save a lot of money, specifically for the state,” Lacock said.

Lacock points to the Community Choices Waiver, a program that helps people get nursing home level care in their own home for less than half the cost of a skilled care facility. According to the Wyoming Department of Health, the waiver has saved the state up to $66 million since 2014.

A 2011 AARP survey found that 90 percent of adults age 65 and older want to stay in their homes and communities as they age. Lacock says that means the least expensive option for long-term care is also what older residents overwhelmingly prefer, and is good news for policy makers facing tough budget decisions.

“They’re in a position you wouldn’t wish on anybody,” Lacock said. “We understand that the cuts need to be prescriptive, we understand that the state can only spend the money it has. I think it’s just important to remember that sometimes you can be well meaning and cut a program that actually ends up costing you more money in the end.”

When people can’t afford care at a nursing home, the federal government picks up just half the bill, leaving the state to come up with roughly 70-million dollars per year. Lacock says since Wyoming’s aging population is the fastest growing in the nation behind Florida, maintaining home and community-based services will become increasingly important down the road.

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