2000-2001 BUDGET: Davis Highlights Health Care for Elderly
Gov. Gray Davis (D) today will present his 2000-2001 budget to the state Legislature, specifically highlighting his health care proposal, which focuses largely on "aging with dignity," the Sacramento Bee reports. Among Davis' proposals:
- A 5% pay raise for nursing home workers, who currently make about $7.50 per hour after a 5% pay increase this year, and a $.35 per hour increase for the state's 180,000 In-Home Supportive Services workers, who currently take home $6.25 per hour.
- A $10 million program to dispense awards ranging from $20,000 to $50,000 to nursing homes that serve high numbers of Medi-Cal recipients and maintain high standards of care.
- Allocating $40 million in federal funds for better training and recruitment of nursing home workers.
- A $500 tax credit for families who provide care for seniors at home.
- Lowering Medi-Cal's income eligibility requirements to offer no-cost coverage to an additional 13,000 aged, blind and disabled Californians.
- Increasing the maximum penalty for nursing homes that violate safety regulations from $25,000 to $100,000.
- A system to guarantee a state response within 48 hours for non-emergency nursing home complaints.
- Increasing review of poor-performing nursing homes and closer financial scrutiny.
- Funding 100 additional nursing home inspectors (Capps, 1/9). The added investigators would conducted unannounced inspections, provide intensive reviews of failing homes and work in the 48-hour response system.
Davis hopes the plan will crack down on negligent nursing homes and will help the elderly remain in their homes as long as possible (Morain/Pyle, Los Angeles Times, 1/9). Several groups lauded the proposals. Pat McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, was especially pleased with the proposals for more investigators, unannounced inspections and quicker response times to complaints. McGinnis noted, "We've been saying for a long time that annual inspections only give you a snapshot. The fact that they find anything is amazing because most of them know you're coming anyway." California Association of Health Facilities President Ron Kurtz added, "On the whole, the fact that the care for fragile seniors has hit the screen as a major priority is a welcome development. The wage (increase) is more than welcome. That is a very difficult part of the labor market and we are having tremendous difficulty attracting workers" (Salladay, San Francisco Examiner, 1/9). But lobbyist Beth Capell complained that while the "5% wage increase, for an industry that is so far below market, is going in the right direction," it is "not nearly enough." Kelley Queale, spokesperson for the California Association of Health Facilities, criticized Davis' failure to raise the basic daily rate paid to nursing homes for each patient, noting that the industry "view[s] the financial situation as being in a crisis" (Los Angeles Times, 1/9). Davis' budget also includes a $111-million boost to the Healthy Families program, which Davis believes will attract 91,000 more children during FY 2000-2001 (Sacramento Bee, 1/9).