In 2007, Oregon still boasted the nation's lowest nursing facility occupancy rate, at 65 percent. But that year Medicaid nursing facility caseloads grew by about 5 percent. This time, changes in federal health care law prevent Oregon from restricting eligibility. But cutting state spending for Medicaid not only makes programs like the one helping Willis vulnerable, but also will reduce the amount of money Oregon receives from the federal government. For every $1 Oregon spends on Medicaid, the federal government contributes $1.67.
"Oregon is among a few other states that have been identified for years as innovative leaders in keeping people at home, which is far less costly than nursing homes," said Jerry Cohen, AARP Oregon state director. "Reducing support for home and community care means going into the nursing home sooner, which costs us all more. We're not only tarnishing our reputation, we're being penny-wise and pound-foolish."
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Paige Parker is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.