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Column: Spending our Money where it Counts - Supporting Home Care in FY15
July 10, 2014

Senator Ben Downing authored this guest column for the August edition of "The Good Life" newsletter, the newspaper for Franklin County's seniors.


Fiscal Year 2015 began on July 1, 2014, and I am pleased to report that this year’s budget contains a lot of good news for Massachusetts’ seniors. 

 
This spring my office hosted Roseann Martoccia, the executive director of the Franklin County Home Care Corporation and John Lutz, the executive director of Elder Services of Berkshire County, Inc. during Mass Home Care’s Lobby Day in the State House. Roseann and John’s message was very positive. They shared that Governor Patrick’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget was his most promising spending plan in relation to elder services that he had ever crafted. I am thankful that the Legislature held the line in many of these senior-service accounts. Our Final FY15 budget is being hailed by home care advocates as the strongest possible budget for their programs and services. Some spending victories for senior programming include:
 
  • $104.4 Million for the elder home care program;
  • $63 Million for the Enhanced Community Options Program (ECOP), which offers care and non-care supports to individuals with a higher level of care needs in their homes;
  • A $6.1 Million wage add on for homemakers, who provide housekeeping assistance, meal planning and preparation for seniors;
  • $5.4 Million for supportive housing programs for seniors;
  • $180,000 for the SHINE Program (Serving the Health Insurance Needs of Everyone), a state health insurance assistance program that provides free health insurance information, counseling and assistance to Massachusetts residents with Medicare and their caregivers;
  • The establishment of a New Community First Trust Fund, containing $16 Million, which will ensure compliance with the state balancing incentive payment program under section 10202 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; and the
  • Establishment of the new Home and Community-based Services Policy Lab Fund which will support research and analysis to enhance the development, evaluation, design and continued improvement of programs rendering home and community-based services to individuals who need long-term services and supports.
 
While many decisions we make during the budget process are quite difficult, it was easy for me to support these initiatives. The numbers are clear: Home care programs – currently serving 44,000 enrolled consumers -- have helped to reduce nursing home use by 33% since 2000. And, over the next six years, with a continued focus on home care, Massachusetts is projected to save $1.2 Billion in institutional costs! Our continued support and investment in home care has eliminated the waiting lists, and this is excellent news.
 
Home care is often preferred by seniors who must choose between receiving assistance at home or in a long-term nursing facility. It is certainly proven to be a more cost-effective option, as well. This budget illustrates that policy-makers have understood your message and made the choice to support your desire to live well at home.


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