Friday, May 8, 2009

State Budget Amendment Could Affect Senior Care

In an effort to trim the California state budget, the state legislature is considering an amendment that would cut state reimbursement provided to senior health care centers in half. There are currently 12 centers that focus on senior health care in the state.

As reported by the North Bay Business Journal, this proposed legislation would reduce the payment per visit from approximately $161 in a prospective payment system to a flat, fee-for-service rate of $76.22. Some believe this proposal would save California about $2.5 million.

If this legislation were implemented, it would have the considerable drawback of causing as many as seven of the existing 12 senior health centers to close. These closures could force many elderly patients into more expensive facilities for care. Seniors in these communities might then face increased difficulty in receiving care and endure increased health problems as a result. In some communities affected by this proposed legislation, the only facility providing care for seniors could be forced to close, such as in Marin County in Northern California. In many cases, many individuals over 60 reside in a county. For example, in San Diego County, more than 400,000 individuals over 60 reside in the county, according to the California Department of Aging. As a result, these changes could affect an important portion of the San Diego population.

Senior health care centers offer unique services

There are approximately 650 adult day centers in the state, but only the 12 affected by this legislation because they each have a health center license. Centers with the license are required to offer more services to the individuals they serve. Because these centers offer more services, supporters of the centers argue that these health care centers are justified in receiving about twice as much reimbursement from California, compared to most adult day care centers. The licensed centers have attained certification because they have at least one medical director and a registered nurse on site, while also providing occupational therapy, podiatry, speech and physical therapy and other services.

Affect of the proposed legislation

This legislation would go into affect on July 1, 2009 if approved by the legislature.

An analysis by the California Primary Care Association calculated that if passed, the cuts might end up costing more than the amount saved. This is because if seven health care centers were to close, many of the patients currently under their care would be forced to pursue treatment at other nursing or medical facilities. If that were to occur, the state and federal government would be forced to pay about $7.4 million more for their care at these new locations. In comparison, under the current scheme, the annual cost to the government for the seven existing facilities totals about $6 million.

Thank you for reading my blog. If you have a question or comment, feel free to respond to this posting, but keep in mind your response will not be confidential. With all of the changes in resources available for elderly individuals, individuals must remain vigilant for abuse, negligence, or neglect by a nursing home or other elder care facility. Please contact Vincent M. Casiano, Esq. for a consultation if you believe you or a loved has suffered from abuse or negligence.