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AARP: TX Seniors Face Dire Cuts to Long-Term Care

April 13, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas - Many Texas seniors will be hit hard if the state Senate Finance Committee can't find a way this week to restore funding to long-term care programs.

Under the budget already passed by the House, seniors now getting in-home care could be forced into nursing homes, says Trey Berndt, AARP of Texas' associate state director for advocacy. At the same time, he says, nursing homes could be forced to reduce their quality of care - or shut their doors entirely.

"I don't think most Texans understand the dire impact of what's really at stake here. I know Texans are concerned about the budget, but I think the reality of these cuts would be a shock to most Texans."

The state is on the brink of a frightening relocation of its most vulnerable and medically fragile citizens, Berndt says, at a human cost that would come without any real fiscal savings. Of the 180,000 Texas seniors needing long-term care, almost 70 percent receive it primarily at home. The cost of home-based care is a fraction of facility-based care, Berndt says, so taxpayers would have to pick up the tab for higher Medicaid payouts if those seniors are forced to move.

Texas nursing homes already are struggling, receiving the second-lowest levels of state aid in the country, Berndt says, but so far the high reliance on in-home care has helped keep the state's system in balance.

"That's not a balance that you want to upset, and to do otherwise would be penny wise and pound foolish."

Berndt says the budget should fund both nursing homes and community care programs at at least their current levels. Senators on the Finance Committee have expressed a desire to boost funding beyond what the House has proposed, but it's yet to be seen how much of the gap, if any, they can fill.

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX