State Backs Off Home Care Cuts

    LANSING — The Granholm administration announced last week that it will delay $17 million in planned cuts to the state’s home care program and work with senior and disability advocates to find other cost savings within the long-term care system.

    The Michigan Olmstead Coalition, an umbrella organization of nearly 20 senior and disability rights groups in Michigan, applauded Gov. Jennifer Granholm for investing in home-based care and recognizing its vital, cost-effective role in Michigan’s long term care system.

    “When the people spoke, our governor listened,” said Ellen Sugrue Hyman of United Cerebral Palsy of Michigan, which coordinates the Olmstead Coalition. “I cannot thank her enough for her leadership and commitment to our seniors and persons with disabilities. This decision to talk further with people who use the service before any cuts shows a commitment to effective home care and consumer involvement.”

    The Olmstead group had been fighting the Michigan Department of Community Health’s (MDCH) proposed cuts for nearly two weeks. It held a rally last week at the capital and turned out hundreds in opposition to two hearings in Detroit and Grand Rapids.

    MDCH officials on Sept. 26 announced plans to cut $17 million from the Home Help program, which provides assistance and support to at least 50,000 people in Michigan. Home Help is funded by Medicaid and is the largest and oldest program in the state for community-based care.

    Olmstead leaders met with Paul Reinhart, state Medicaid director, to discuss the planned cuts. He told the group that the proposal is being taken off the table for now, but that future cuts could happen as the state’s budget woes continue. He promised that the state will work together with consumers and advocates on any decisions about cuts to the program.

    “Our current budget situation proves that Michigan must begin aggressively redesigning its long term care system,” said RoAnne Chaney, Michigan Disability Rights Coalition policy analyst. “Other states like Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Vermont have invested in home- and community-based care and have seen drastic cost savings. Michigan must do the same.”

    Home care costs taxpayers about $46 a day per person as opposed to nursing home costs that reach at least $110 a day. Nursing home reimbursements in Michigan have increased 90 percent between 1990 and 2000 while home-based care has been cut.

    Nursing homes in Michigan will receive $1.3 billion this year, a 14 percent increase. Michigan now has the dubious title of having the largest percentage of long term care dollars poured into nursing homes, according to the coalition.           

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