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What Can Brown Do for Senior Health Issues?

Just because the California political landscape is in transition and its budget in disarray, that doesn’t mean the state still doesn’t have pressing needs and opportunities for its seniors, according to Gretchen Alkema of the SCAN Foundation, a not-for-profit that looks at long-term care issues.

“Time is of the essence,” Alkema said. “The reality is, individuals with long-term needs, that doesn’t change with the budget situation.”

So even though Jerry Brown and newly elected legislators won’t take the oath of office till January, the SCAN Foundation released a policy brief yesterday on the long-term care challenges and possible solutions for seniors in California.

“When those needs are not filled, seniors end up in expensive, acute-care facilities,” Alkema said. “They find their way to emergency rooms and hospitals.”

As if to underscore her point, yesterday marked the official launch of the federal Innovation Center by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS announced it will give up to $1 million in contracts to as many as 15 state programs that deal with dual eligibles — people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.

“What that speaks to is that there are other pots of money out there,” Alkema said, “and they’re figuring out right now where they’re going to put that money and into what states.”

That’s money California could corner, Alkema said. There also are programs under the Affordable Care Act that could help seniors and mean serious cash to California.

The Community First Choice program, she said, has an increased federal match to provide community-based attendant services for some nursing facilities. And the Money Follows the Person program, which helps get people out of nursing homes and back into the community, also has a large federal match available.

“There are several provisions in the ACA that are potential funding sources for Brown,” she said, “but he’ll need to act quickly. They’re still putting out the guidance on them.”

Helping institutionalized seniors go back home would end up being an additional cost-saver for California, Alkema said.

“These are two programs in particular that in the short term the administration could evaluate and maybe draw down additional resources it doesn’t have now,” Alkema said. “Creating community-based care and driving down costs, that’s a real win-win.”

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