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State House Update: Fighting for Nursing Home Residents

Imagine this: Your 90-year-old mother lives in a nursing home. You arrange for her to spend a holiday weekend with the family. But when you return to the nursing home, her bed is gone. That scenario could have been reality with a proposed change to the Medicaid system for Fiscal Year 2012, in which nursing home leaves of absence, commonly called “bed hold,” were targeted for elimination.

AARP Massachusetts State Director Deborah Banda recently testified at the State House in support of a number of bills aimed at helping vulnerable residents in nursing homes and long term care facilities.

Appearing before the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, Banda spoke in favor of:

  • An Act Relative to Reserving Beds in Nursing Homes During Certain Leaves of Absence: House Bill 1096
  • An Act to Increase the Personal Needs Allowance for Residents of Long term Care Facilities, HB 187

If these bills are passed and signed by Gov. Deval Patrick (D), nursing home leaves of absence and the personal needs allowance (with an annual adjustment) would become state law.

Protect vulnerable residents

“We fear that reductions already made in the current Medicaid budget, due to the dire fiscal climate, will harm some of our most vulnerable residents – those with low incomes, spouses of nursing home residents, older persons, and persons with disabilities,” said Banda in her testimony. “While we agree that any program consuming such a large portion of the state’s budget demands a close look at the finances, it is unacceptable to reform a program without concern for the vulnerable persons affected and with regard only for the bottom line.”

More on the bed hold

The current program is funded by Medicaid, and pays nursing homes to reserve a resident’s bed for up to 10 days.

Federal law requires nursing homes to readmit a resident after a temporary leave to the first available bed in a semi-private room, but it does not guarantee the person the same room or bed as before. This can be disorienting to patients who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

The personal needs allowance, a monthly stipend for residents of long-term care facilities, is set at $72.80 per month.

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