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Biden Administration Aims to Expand Home-Based Care for Medicaid Recipients

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Thursday, January 27, 2022   

Home-based care advocates say they are confident measures outlined in President Joe Biden's now-stalled Build Back Better Act will move forward in some form.

The legislation aims to expand access to services to older adults and people with disabilities, as well as boosting pay for workers who provide home-based care. Currently, more than 3.5 million people rely on Medicaid's Home and Community Based Services (HCBS).

Connie Garner, national policy director for Easterseals, explained demand for home care has outpaced resources, and as a result, more older adults end up in nurse homes.

"That costs more money, that causes more isolation, and that's not what we should have in this country," Garner asserted. "We should have the ability to have people be able to be taken care of correctly at home. And we have to be able to pay and support the providers of that care. They become an essential member of that family."

According to the research firm Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, more than two million home care workers earn around $16,000 per year, and one in six live below the federal poverty line.

A report by the ICA group found West Virginia is facing a troubling home-caregiver shortage with one caregiver available for roughly every 11 clients.

In Washington, lawmakers say portions of the Build Back Better Act will likely pass this year, but it remains unclear whether the $150 billion earmarked for Medicaid HCBS will remain intact.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2020 more than 2.5 million people nationwide received Home and Community Based Services, with hundreds of thousands more on wait lists.

Amber Christ, director of health policy and advocacy for Justice in Aging, said families are forced to make tough choices.

"From an older adult perspective, this lack of investment in home and community-based services in effect pushes older adult into nursing facilities unnecessarily," Christ contended.

A survey by AARP found 76% of Americans age 50 and older say they prefer to remain in their current residence as long as possible, but just 46% anticipate they will be able to stay in their current home.

Disclosure: Justice in Aging contributes to our fund for reporting on Civil Rights, Health Issues, Senior Issues, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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