April 29, 2024

Elder Care Legislation Approved by the House

A wide-ranging bill on elder care approved by the House Monday aims to increase access to home-based services by creating a presumptive Medicaid eligibility program for seniors who wish to age at home rather than in a nursing home.

The House voted 143 to 3 to send the 30-page bill to the Senate following an early afternoon debate. The legislation is a priority of House Speaker Matt Ritter and originated in the legislature’s Aging Committee.

Rep. Jane Garibay, a Windsor Democrat who co-chairs the Aging committee, said the bill sought to address a number of urgent issues related to care provided by home care professionals and nursing homes.

“This is a momentous occasion for us and I can’t emphasize that enough,” Garibay said as she introduced the bill. “It has the potential to reshape public policy on aging for our state and shine as a beacon to other states who value seniors and are facing new challenges for the population.”

By presuming that home-based services will be covered by Medicaid, the bill’s proponents hope to spare seniors the choice between residing in a nursing home or forgoing care while awaiting an approval process that can take up to 90 days.

During a morning media availability, the bill’s proponents told reporters that the costs related to the first year of the policy would be covered by remaining federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act.

However, supporters do not expect the policy to result in additional costs to the state because the impacted services are generally covered by Medicaid, which means the state will be reimbursed.

If the Department of Social Services concludes after two years the eligibility presumption has not been cost-effective, the bill includes a provision allowing the agency’s commissioner to discontinue the policy.

Other sections of the bill pertain to transparency for seniors navigating the complicated long term care landscape and workforce improvements for the professionals working in the sector.

The bill includes new training requirements and photo ID badges for Personal Care Attendants and other home health care workers, an expansion of fingerprinting locations for employment background checks, and creation of a dashboard designed to provide consumers with up-to-date information on the quality of care available at different facilities.

The bill will now head to the state Senate for consideration during the final days of the legislative session.

During Monday’s media availability, Sen. Jan Hochadel, a Meriden Democrat who co-chairs the Aging Committee, praised the bill and the work of her co-chair, Garibay, for helping to guide its progress. Hochadel said her late-father’s experiences navigating end-of-life care underscored for her the need to improve services for seniors in Connecticut.

“My dad passed away last year and he went through the transition of having home health care, going to the nursing home, and finally hospice and when I came back, Jane and I talked and said we have got to make a difference,” Senator Hochadel said.

Posted by Hugh McQuaid