By Christine Vestal, Stateline Staff Writer
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced a $25 million grant to help states improve and develop more Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ARDC), which help low-income adults remain in their communities by using local home health care services. The centers are part of a national effort to help more frail elders and those with mental and physical handicaps maintain their independence, while reducing the cost per person of Medicaid long-term care.
The new money, announced last week and authorized by the Affordable Care Act, is the last installment of a $50 million grant program. The Department of Veterans Affairs will make another $27 million available to states to help disabled veterans find home and community-based health care services. Both grant programs will distribute the money on a competitive basis over three years.
HHS said it would pick eight states to accelerate the development of ADRC services by becoming national models. Nearly every other state will also receive funding over the next three years, the department said.
Wisconsin in the mid-1990s was the first state to set up these well-advertised storefronts that offered information and advice on home health services, such as bathing and dressing, physical therapy, meal preparation, skilled nursing, housekeeping and transportation. Since then, nearly every state has followed Wisconsin’s lead with the help of federal money.
Besides keeping seniors and the disabled from being unnecessarily confined to nursing facilities, home care programs can save states billions in Medicaid dollars, because community-based care costs only up to half as much as comparable nursing home care, according to the AARP. In addition to the ADRC grants, the federal health law offers other incentives for states that successfully shift more Medicaid-funded long-term care away from costly nursing facilities.
Typically, ADRC case workers meet people in an office, follow up by phone and ultimately visit clients’ homes to help determine what services are needed. Then they propose solutions as diverse as hiring a housekeeper to giving a family caretaker a needed break to building a wheel chair ramp. They also help clients arrange transportation to doctors’ appointments and sign up for adult day-care programs.
Counselors then help clients navigate Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance plans to determine how to pay for their care. Finally, the counselors order the services their clients choose and stay in contact with them over time to offer further advice as their needs change.