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California Advocates Eagerly Awaiting Federal Report on Long-Term Care Issues

The federal Commission on Long-Term Care today is expected to release its comprehensive report on tactics and targets to improve care for the elderly, and that report could help focus attention on long-term care concerns in California.

California has its own vision document for long-term care, developed by state officials two years ago. More specifically, the state is undertaking a major effort to overhaul care for seniors in California, and that project may be influenced by this federal attention, according to Jack Hailey, project manager at the Government Action and Communication Institute, a not-for-profit education and health advocacy group in Sacramento.

“This is the first national report or statement since the governor released his plan two years ago,” Hailey said. “In California, we have to figure out how to get [the Coordinated Care Initiative] to work. We hope this report adds substance to the conversation.”

The federal commission’s report is six months in the making. Last week, it released a list of recommendations, and Hailey was heartened by the initial approach.

“We think this whole vision that the state has, that the federal report has, of person-centered and integrated care, is absolutely crucial,” he said. “There’s a whole set of recommendations around integration of care and creating a universal assessment. There’s an emphasis on good case management, so all the navigation isn’t left up to the patient.”

Those goals mirror California health officials’ stated approach to the one million people who are eligible to receive both Medicare and Medi-Cal (California’s version of Medicaid), he said.

Cal MediConnect and CCI, those two programs, are the big public experiment in public policy right now,” Hailey said. “There are implications there for one million of the most vulnerable and needy in California.”

Legislatively, advocates for seniors and those with disabilities likely will focus on oversight of those programs for the next year or so, Hailey said, rather than pursuing any specific legislation.

“How’s our assessment? How’s our evaluation? That’s where the public effort will probably go,” Hailey said.

Those oversight hearings matter, he said. “There was one in the spring this year that woke up the Department of Health Care Services,” Hailey said. “Suddenly the happy talk stopped for a few minutes, and they really had to pay closer attention. It’s not that people are skeptics, it’s just that it’s a complicated subject.”

Paying attention to long-term care issues, both at the individual and policy levels, is a relatively new phenomenon, Hailey said. The burgeoning senior population is making that type of planning critical, he said.

“As advocates, we need to say this is really important to pay attention to, and this report will help do that,” Hailey said. “This report says to politicians, this issue matters. We know you have a lot on your plates, we know you have a lot of issues. It’s another one, but it needs a lot of attention.”

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