TRENTON – Senator Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman Jim Whelan today unveiled a landmark proposal to give elderly and disabled residents the choice of receiving government aid for long-term health care in the comfort of their homes and local communities.
“For too many generations, ironclad government systems channeled the elderly and the disabled into nursing homes and other institutions,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “But today, we’re unveiling a proposal that will change the system and direct state and federal funding to home health care and community-based programs.”
“Seniors and the disabled deserve to live out their golden years with dignity,” said Assemblyman Whelan, D-Atlantic. ” This measure will empower seniors and the disabled to decide what long-term care plan works best for them.”
The two lawmakers said their “Independence, Dignity and Choice in Long-Term Care Act” was put together by a working group of leaders from hospitals, unions, nursing homes, the disabled, seniors and community care providers.
“Seniors and the disabled will benefit from this proposal because a lot of people checked their egos at the doors when we met and worked together,” Senator Weinberg said.
“The key to this proposal is that it will free up Medicaid funds for filling the specific needs of a population that traditionally has been channeled into nursing homes and other institutions,” said Assemblyman Whelan. “This measure will save tax dollars by targeting funds to meet specific health care needs for those at home or enrolled in community care programs.”
Under the Weinberg-Whelan bill being introduced today pilot projects will begin next year in Atlantic and Warren counties where Medicaid funding will be expedited for home and community care programs for which funding models will be assessed based on specific needs.
A year later, it is hoped that pilot programs will be expanded to a statewide basis in all counties so there is a “re-balancing” of the billions of Medicaid dollars based on choices made by the elderly and disabled for their long-term health care needs.
The program will be monitored by a 13-member Medicaid Long-Term Care Funding Advisory Council and its progression to a statewide program must be approved by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services.
Key groups that will have representatives on the Advisory Council will include AARP, the Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the County Office for the Disabled, the Health Care Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey Hospital Association, the Rutgers Center for State Health Policy, the New Jersey Elder Rights Coalition, a labor union representing home and community-based health care workers and owners of agencies providing home and community-based health care services.