Weighing the costs of cutting home-care services in Wyoming
CHEYENNE, WYO. | By ERIC GALATAS, (Public News Service) – As Wyoming lawmakers wrestle with a staggering $750 million budget deficit, the state’s largest advocacy organization for people age 50 and older is warning cuts to some programs may actually end up costing taxpayers more.
Tom Lacock, associate state director at AARP Wyoming, said in order for older residents to age in place, they need home health care, help with chores, bathing, and other community-based services.
“That when delivered actually in the home as opposed to being delivered in a skilled nursing facility, help folks remain independent,” Lacock said. “The nice side effect in doing that is the fact that they save a lot of money, specifically for the state.”
Lacock pointed to the Community Choices Waiver, a program that helps people get nursing home-level care in their own home for less than half the cost of a skilled care facility. According to the Wyoming Department of Health, the waiver has saved the state up to $66 million since 2014.
A 2011 AARP survey found 90% of adults age 65 and older want to stay in their homes and communities as they age. Lacock said that means the least expensive option for long-term care is also what older residents overwhelmingly prefer, and is good news for policy makers facing tough budget decisions.
“They’re in a position you wouldn’t wish on anybody. We understand the cuts need to be prescriptive, we understand the state can only spend the money it has,” he said. “I think it’s just important to remember that sometimes you can be well meaning and cut a program that actually ends up costing you more money in the end.”
When people can’t afford care at a nursing home, the federal government only picks up half the bill, leaving the state to come up with roughly $70 million per year. Lacock said since Wyoming’s aging population is the second-fastest growing in the nation behind Florida, maintaining home and community-based services will become increasingly important down the road.
Disclosure: AARP Wyoming contributes to Public News Service’s fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Housing/Homelessness, Senior Issues.