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AARP Florida: Serve More Frail Floridians, Use Medicaid Dollars Wisely by Helping Frail Elders Stay in Their Homes

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Helping more families care for older loved ones at home and in their communities means shifting Florida's priorities for Medicaid long-term care spending, AARP Florida says.

Tallahassee, Fla. – AARP Florida Friday urged Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis’s new administration to “rebalance” Florida’s Medicaid long-term care budget so frail older and disabled Floridians could get more help to remain in their homes and communities, rather than being cared for in institutions such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Such a shift could make wiser use of Medicaid dollars and help Florida make progress on whittling down its growing waiting lists for care at a time when Florida’s older population is growing rapidly, said AARP Florida Advocacy Manager Jack McRay in a letter sent Friday to the DeSantis Transition Advisory Committee on Health and Wellness.

“Over the last decade, Florida has funneled the bulk of its long-term care funding into institutional residential care rather than into home-and-community-based services,” McRay wrote.

On average, U.S. states spend about 45 percent of their Medicaid long-term care funding on providing home- and community-based care to elders and the disabled in their homes and communities. In Florida, only 22 percent of Medicaid long-term care funding goes to home- and community-based services.

Rising older populations, big waiting list

If Florida “rebalanced” its Medicaid long-term care funding to a more even balance between institutional care and home- and community-based services, it could serve three to four times as many people needing care for the same funding as care in institutional settings, McRay said.

Meanwhile, McRay noted, Florida’s older population is rising faster than in any other state. With the growth in its older population has come a growing number of families who are on state waiting lists for home- and community-based care. Some 53,495 older Floridians now are on waiting lists for home- and community-based services funded by Medicaid, McRay noted.

“Unless Florida changes its long-term care policies, more and more Florida seniors will not receive the Medicaid services they need and many will suffer from that failure,” McRay said.

Solutions: Shift spending to help frail, disabled people remain at home

McRay suggested the incoming administration could ask the federal government to make home- and community-based care the “primary placement” for Medicaid long-term care; ask the federal government to approve a pilot program that would test the approach in urban, suburban and rural areas of the state; or increase funding for additional places in Medicaid long-term care

The committee is chaired by Lt. Gov.-elect Jeanette Nunez and Alan Levine, a member of the Florida university system’s Board of Governors, a former CEO of Broward Health and former secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. Levine is currently President and CEO of Ballad Health, a health-care company serving eastern Tennessee and southern Virginia.

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