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Senior Home-Care Cuts Could Expand State Budget Shortfalls

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AARP's most recent survey found that 90% of adults age 65 and older want to stay in theirhomes and communities as they age. (A Place for Mom)
AARP's most recent survey found that 90% of adults age 65 and older want to stay in their
homes and communities as they age. (A Place for Mom)
February 23, 2021

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- When Wyoming lawmakers reconvene in early March, advocates for people age fifty and older are hoping to convince them to preserve a program that provides home health care, meals, transportation, bathing and other assistance to older residents and people with disabilities.

Tom Lacock, associate state director for communications and state advocacy at AARP Wyoming, said without access to in-home care, more people may turn to nursing homes with a price tag of $4,300 per person, per month.

"The Wyoming Home Services program has been shown to serve people who don't yet quite need that nursing-home level of care for about $200 a month," Lacock explained. "So we know that treating someone in the home is a cost saver, and frankly it's where people want to be."

Gov. Mark Gordon's most recent budget would effectively end the program by cutting $2.75 million dollars. The legislature faces a $750 million budget shortfall, largely due to revenue losses during last year's downturns in oil and gas prices and declining demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lacock noted lawmakers could opt to keep the home services program for another year by adding a budget footnote. He added he appreciates the heavy lift facing state legislators, and understands lawmakers can't spend money they don't have.

"It's a monumental task that they've got to deal with, in terms of diminishing revenues, and trying to cut their way out of that without new revenue sources," Lacock acknowledged. "In doing that, you've got to be a little bit careful that you don't cut the programs that are also acting as money savers for you."

When Wyoming residents enter nursing homes and can't afford to pay for care, the state is on the hook for half of those costs.

Currently, taxpayers contribute some $70 million per year to cover the state's share.

Lacock pointed out without access to in-home care options, those costs will only increase in future years. Wyoming is projected to see a 208% increase in residents 85 and older in the next 30 years.

Disclosure: AARP Wyoming contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Housing/Homelessness, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY