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WA Bill Would Increase Allowance for People Receiving In-Home Care

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022   

As the cost of living skyrockets in Washington state, people needing in-home care are being squeezed, a state Senate bill would increase the amount of money they can keep after paying for care.

The Personal Needs Allowance is the amount of income left over after the Medicaid copay for long-term care. It's currently set at $1,074 a month in Washington state, far lower than the national average.

Cathy MacCaul, advocacy director for AARP Washington, said lawmakers should support a bill to increase the Personal Needs Allowance to $2,382.

"That will give individuals more money for them to keep to use for rent, food, electricity, prescription drugs, health care," MacCaul outlined. "But still receive the same quality of care that they have in the past."

The average cost of living for older Washingtonians is about $2,900 a month, according to the Elder Index.

Increasing the Personal Needs Allowance would cost the state $25.6 million a year. The bill is scheduled for an executive session today in the Senate Committee on Human Services, Reentry and Rehabilitation.

Cathy Knight, state director for the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging, which has 13 area agencies in the state, said people have had to leave their homes and live in residential settings or forgo care because the Personal Needs Allowance amount isn't enough to live on.

She also noted it is more expensive for people to be in nursing homes than to receive care at home.

"It sort of sets up a crazy system," Knight asserted. "People who want to stay at home can't afford to stay at home. And yet it costs the state more, in terms of the Medicaid dollars, for those folks to have to move to a residential setting."

MacCaul pointed out most people want to stay in their homes, and should not have to choose between getting the care they need or covering basic expenses.

"There are a lot of older adults and people with disabilities that are living on very modest levels of income," MacCaul noted. "This is really a recognition by the state of the responsibility we have to care for the most vulnerable in our communities."

She added the legislation would set the allowance according to federal Social Security guidelines, so it would not have to be adjusted year after year.

Disclosure: AARP Washington contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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