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Washington’s Best-in-the-Nation Long-Term Care System is at Risk

When it comes to long-term care, Washington state ranks 2nd in the nation. That’s according to a recently released report issued by AARP in conjunction with the Commonwealth Fund and the SCAN Foundation.

The report, “Raising Expectations: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers,” provides a detailed comparison of how Washington measures up compared to other states on numerous indicators related to long-term care affordability and access, choice of setting and provider, quality of life and quality of care and support for family caregivers.

Most states are still spending most of their resources on nursing home care while offering few options for people to stay in their own homes and communities. Not Washington. Here in the Evergreen State, 63-percent of all Medicaid and state funded long-term care funding is going to home and community based services – that’s compared to a median rate for all states of 30-percent.

That’s good for people and for the state budget. People can stay independent with the help of a home care worker, meals on wheels, adult day health and other supports – rather than feeling like nursing home care is their only option. And fewer people using Medicaid to pay for expensive nursing home care means big savings for the state – up to $1 billion over the past decade.

The news is in and it’s good – if you need long-term care, Washington is one the best states in the nation to live in. But there is a caveat – our best in the nation status is at risk. In recent years the state legislature has cut back on home care hours and other supports that people need to stay out of nursing homes. We are turning the clock backward. With fewer home care hours, less support and higher health care costs, more and more people will give up on their struggle to remain in their own homes and settle for expensive nursing home care because they feel it is their only option.

To maintain our best in the nation status and continue our popular and cost effective approach, lawmakers in Olympia need to make it a priority to preserve funding for home care, family caregiver supports and the array of supports funded through the Senior Citizens Service Act. Funding these services is an investment that has and will continue to pay off.

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