Hoosier seniors deserve home care option

(Anderson) Herald Bulletin

Problems riddle Indiana’s system of care for seniors.

Nursing home and long-term care facilities are often understaffed.

Employees are generally paid meager wages. And state regulation and oversight is lax.

The poor care that results can lead to frustration, anxiety, health complications and premature death.

For many Hoosier seniors, a better option would be to receive care at home in a familiar, comfortable, nurturing environment.

An AARP survey shows that 75% of Americans 50 or older prefer to live at home as they age; however, just 45% of Indiana’s Medicaid beneficiaries receive care at home.

In part, that’s because the state’s system for approving medical care at home can seem forbidding and can move at a glacial pace.

In January, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration officials revealed a series of reforms proposed to streamline the process and improve the quality of care for the state’s seniors.

The four-point plan, in part, would allow more Hoosiers to receive care at home as they age.

The proposal would simplify a convoluted long-term care system that many find hopelessly difficult to navigate. Often, Hoosier seniors in need of immediate care check into nursing homes because the approval process to use Medicaid for home health care is so ponderous. Many never check out.

That system, operated by an organization or company, would be replaced by a managed care provider that would make it easy for Hoosiers to access a single online portal for information about options.

Already, 25 other states administer long-term care through such a system. And in Indiana, 80% of Medicaid spending is coordinated already through managed care.

“That will make sure that they’re getting the right care from the right provider in the right environment at the right time,” the state’s chief medical officer, Dan Rusyniak, said in January.

The administration of Gov. Eric Holcomb has been pursuing such a comprehensive plan for the past few years. But the state legislature erected a roadblock by passing a moratorium on a managed care system.

But here’s some good news: The moratorium is set to expire at the end of June, and bills drafted in the Senate and the House to extend it died in committee in January.

The state also introduced a pilot program in October that enabled several Indiana counties to approve applications for home-based health care in less than 72 hours. In the first three months, more than 600 Hoosiers used the system. Typically, Medicaid approval for home-based care in Indiana has taken six weeks or more.

Clearly, the state must move ahead quickly to facilitate easy access to these options for thousands of Hoosier seniors who would thrive if allowed to receive the care they need at home.

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