WISCONSIN: Budget Push Begins For Long-Term Care Program
Wisconsin's Department of Health and Family Services recently submitted a budget request to Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) calling for $264 million over the next two years to fund Family Care, "a sweeping new reform of long-term care" that would reduce costs by allowing the elderly and disabled to receive care at home or in the community rather than in nursing homes. Fredi-Ellem Bove, the department's budget chief, predicts that existing state, federal and community funds for long-term care will cover most of the $77 million needed for the program's first year and $187 million for the second year. Bove said the only necessary additional funding is for start-up costs, projected at $11.8 million over two years. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that initially, Family Care "would cover only 20% of the state's eligible population," with 3,000 people enrolling per month in the first year, and 8,300 in the second, and would eventually be expanded to all eligible seniors and disabled persons. The Family Care program would establish "care management centers" with case workers trained to "guide people in selecting the services they need at the cost they are deemed eligible for." The state predicts that eventually nursing home use would drop from 71% to 40% among seniors, and drop from 43% to 10% among the disabled.
Nursing home officials, however, counter that "their residents have severe needs" and caring for them in community settings would actually "cost even more." Tom Moore, executive director of the Wisconsin Health Care Association, said, "The state didn't evaluate the needs and characteristics of this population in projecting what their service needs will be. We've challenged the state to come in and show us which of our residents could live outside and receive comparable outcomes." However, Bove said the state based its numbers on existing programs in other states and noted that people currently in nursing homes would not be relocated. "But we do expect people at the point of needing to figure out long-term care will have more opportunity to stay in the community instead of a nursing home," she said (Bauer, 10/5).