Aging with Dignity in the Golden State: A New Administration Offers Hope for the Future of California's Elders

Article excerpt

California's governor-elect Jerry Brown has the opportunity to play a significant role in the health and wellbeing of the Golden State's emerging elder population.

In 2011, the oldest baby boomers will begin to turn age 65. Over the next 20 years, California will see a 100% increase in this age group, from 4.41 million in 2010 to 8.84 million in 2030, according to the California Department of Finance.

The current system of care is inadequate to meet the needs of those who find it increasingly difficult to live independently as they age. Although not all older Californians need long-term care, nearly 70% of those older than age 65 will rely upon personal or assistive services at some point in their lives.

When informed of this likelihood, Californians report feeling uneasy and unprepared. According to a March 2010 poll conducted by Lake Research Partners and American Viewpoint, 66% of California voters ages 40 and older worry about being able to pay for longterm care that they or a family member may need in the future.

With little saved for retirement and low uptake of long-term care insurance, many Californians are unaware of just how vulnerable they are to having to "spend down" their savings before becoming eligible for Medi-Cal (California's version of Medicaid).

A BLUEPRINT FOR BETTER CARE

To help protect middle-class Californians of tomorrow and increase access to community-based care for today's elders, the Affordable Care Act gives the incoming Brown administration several opportunities to improve the system. As a blueprint, The SCAN Foundation recently released a policy brief, "Transforming California's System of Care for Older Adults: Considerations for the Next Administration."

"California has the opportunity to build a more sustainable network of home- and community-based services to meet the rising need," said Dr. Bruce Chernof, president and chief executive officer of The SCAN Foundation. "However, it will take leadership and vision from the Brown adminitration to fulfill this objective."

The policy brief calls attention to a number of home- and communitybased program options that can bring more federal dollars to the state, while keeping elders with long-term-care needs out of nursing homes.

One such proposal made available through the Affordable Care Act is Community First Choice, a new Medicaid State Plan option that provides community-based attendant services and supports to those meeting nursing home eligibility requirements. For states that pick up this option, Community First Choice offers a 6% increase in federal matching funds paid to states through Medicaid.

Another measure is the expansion of the state's existing Money Follows the Person program that helps to facilitate the relocation of eligible Californians from nursing homes back into the community. This program provides a 50% increase over the state's standard MediCai match for services provided to eligible individuals in the first year following transfer from an institution. …