AARP Pennsylvania is dismayed at the extreme increase in the transfer of lottery revenues to the State Medicaid program.
See Also: Use of Lottery Money for Costly Care in Nursing Homes Stirs Debate
The $309 million transfer represents a $131 million increase over the current SFY 2011/12 budget and a $59 million increase over the Governor's original SFY 2013-14 proposal. The passage of this budget means that over the past six years, more than $1.3 billion in lottery proceeds have been transferred to the state Medicaid program, freeing General Fund revenues to be used for other budget priorities. To make it worse, these dollars favor institutional care over the home and community based services and supports preferred by older Pennsylvanians.
"This demonstrates that the priorities of the Administration and General Assembly counter the expressed and well-documented preferences of their older adult constituents," said Ivonne Gutierrez Bucher, AARP Pennsylvania's State Director. "Older Pennsylvanians have made it abundantly clear that they want to stay at home and in their communities as long as possible. Despite this public officials have chosen to shift lottery resources to the Medicaid Long-term Care services, 90% of which fund nursing home care. We are taking funding away from very programs that help them stay independently in their homes and that help them avoid or delay institutionalization."
The 2012/13 Pennsylvania budget does not provide a funding increase for home and community-based services at a time when they already struggle to keep pace with service costs and encounter waiting lists in most Pennsylvania counties. Senior centers face deteriorating physical plants and many have reduced hours or cut programs; areas of the state have no adult day care services, and low reimbursement rates are hurting professional caregiver recruiting and retention.
"Pennsylvania lawmakers must reconsider their approach of using the lottery to supplant general fund dollars to pay for welfare programs such as Medicaid that should be funded by the General Budget," stated Bucher. "The lottery was established to fund programs that benefit older Pennsylvanians and the lottery's new series of television advertisements shows active, engaged seniors who appear to be involved in their communities because of the assistance lottery programs provide them. This budget belies the message conveyed in those commercials. Older Pennsylvanians must hold their public officials accountable for decisions that disregard and disrespect their expressed wishes and preferences."
AARP has long been in support of the OPTIONS program which is funded by the lottery revenues. The program has proven to be an innovative way to provide assistance to older Pennsylvanians to stay at home instead of being forced into institutional care. Currently thousands of Pennsylvanians are waiting to receive services from the OPTIONS program which provides assistance to residents who are above the poverty level, unlike Medicaid which requires recipients of long-term assistance to spend down their assets and receive little, if none at all, income.