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by: World's Editorial Writers
Monday, February 02, 2009
2/2/2009 2:28:24 AM
It's to Oklahoma's advantage to save ADvantage, a program administered by the Department of Human Services that has allowed about 23,000 low-income elderly and disabled residents to remain in their homes instead of moving to far more expensive nursing homes. ADvantage saves the state about $20,000 per person in nursing-home costs and provides home services. A combination of federal Medicaid dollars and state money is used to fund the program.
Unfortunately, this worthwhile program is nearly $6 million in the red and that number could climb to $12 million by July 1. What's creating the shortfall is high demand and federal underfunding.
To address the mounting problem DHS Director Howard Hendrick is proposing three options, including: a supplemental appropriation from the Legislature, creating a waiting list, and asking the Oklahoma Health Care Authority for help.
The latter option probably is not feasible since OHCA has budget constraints of its own. The authority administers nursing home assistance programs.
Change, however, could be on the way. Hendrick said the federal government is considering altering the federal match for these types of programs. That move could affect the overall budget.
Most older people as well as many disabled citizens want to live independently in their own homes or apartments rather than moving to nursing homes. Since its creation in 1993, the ADvantage program has made that possible for thousands of low-income Oklahomans. In November, DHS took over the program, which had been administered by the Tulsa-based Long-Term Care Authority.
Money will be tight this legislative session but this is one program that needs to be saved. ADvantage actually saves the state money in the long run.
Without ADvantage 23,000 people most likely would have to leave independent living behind and move into a much more expensive setting.
Sounds like a wonderful plan. I'm sorry to hear it's heading for possible trouble. States and the Feds should understand that they can save money by keeping our elders in their homes.
I was sorry to read that the plan was for low-income residents. I'm a member of the retired low middle class and won't be able to afford to stay in my house without help. I've watched my retirement saving drop by 30% which may mean I'll be a member of the low-income class before long.
I just might contact our local Office of the Aging to see what's available in our area.