Aging Networks Can Improve Long-Term Care and Lower Costs

Older Americans often end up needing daily care and support over many months and years. Right now, many seniors are forced to enter nursing homes paid through Medicaid. But the cost of institutional care is very high – unaffordable over the long run for the federal government, the states, and families. What is more, many older people would prefer to remain in their own homes and communities. America needs better solutions.

Private-sector managed health care organizations are experimenting with ways to better coordinate home-care and community services. An even more promising approach is an “aging network” that allows local non-profits and government agencies to work together to assess the needs of each older person, identify appropriate services such as home aides, and administer cost-effective community programs. Families and older people find aging networks good to work with, because they provide one-stop information and a supportive social network. The emphasis is on care, not profit.

Managed Care Encourages Savings through the Private Sector

One method that has been used to save money and encourage home care for seniors involves the integration of different sources of funding – from Medicaid and other public and private sources – in a private-sector “Managed Long-Term Care” umbrella program operating at the local or regional level. This program receives funds from various sources and pays out a set, per-person rate to purchase care from various companies, including nursing homes along with home-care companies, whichever works at the specified price. Over the past fifteen years, various managed care programs have developed around the country. They vary a great deal in the types of people helped, the range of funding sources in addition to Medicaid, their geographical scope and benefit packages. Some include traditional, non-profit providers of elder-care services, like Meals On Wheels and other non-profits, while others work only with for-profit providers.

The Wisconsin Family Care program is the best example of this kind of Managed Long-Term Care program that successfully integrates and redirects long-term-care resources. The program has generated significant savings and satisfied consumers, while shifting the kinds of services provided toward home-based, lower-cost solutions.

– Scholars Strategy Network

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