State lawmakers are promoting key health care proposals this year aimed at helping elderly and disabled Tennesseans receive more options in their health care, including staying in their homes for as long as possible.  Representative Richard Montgomery announced today that he supported the proposals, adding that they were a crucial part of giving seniors more options.  The long term care legislation is part of a series of bills aiming to help citizens “age in place.”

Rep. Montgomery pointed first to a “self –directed care” plan that lawmakers have been supporting for several years.  The legislation calls for a pilot program for a “self-directed care program” where individual patients get the opportunity to choose services they think they need and who provides them. Consumers would receive a monthly budget based on their needs, and could use this money to hire personal assistant services, make home modifications, and more.

“We must look at all of our laws to help give citizens more options regarding their health care so that they can age in place in their homes with dignity,” said Rep. Montgomery. “This is one of several bills we hope to pass this year aimed at providing more choices and options to elderly and disabled Tennesseans to help them stay in their homes as long as they can. I know from speaking with citizens in my district that this is an issue that concerns many of them, and I can sympathize with their lack of options.”

Rep. Montgomery said “Our aim is to ensure that seniors and the disabled have options, and that they are in control of those options. Tennessee has been last in the nation for too long in the number of healthcare choices for elderly and disabled citizens on Medicaid-supported services, a problem that has kept them from being able to stay in their homes and age with dignity.”

Arkansas, Florida, and New Jersey were the pioneers of this self-directed health care concept.  Since that time, 12 other states have expanded their choices. Studies show that, by every measure, self-directed care is succeeding and that consumers with this option are reporting greater satisfaction, better quality of life, and fewer unmet needs. Tennessee spent approximately $1.1 billion on long term care last year.  Out of the 22,000 seniors on Medicaid in Tennessee, only a few thousand get home-and community-based care services. 

There is proposed legislation that establishes a statewide long term care insurance program and encourages responsibility by rewarding those who purchase long term care insurance.  Currently, to receive state dollars for long term care, participants are required to “spend down” their assets-sometimes having to dispose of family heirlooms, land, or other things that do have monetary value, but also have sentimental value.

Under this proposal, which has been similarly adopted in 15 other states, a senior can own their own future and protect their assets.  For every one dollar of long term care insurance paid, one dollar of personal assets will be protected if the policy holder ever needs to apply for Medicaid.  For example, if you have a long term care policy of $100,000, once these policy benefits have been exhausted, under the program you can protect $100,000 of you assets if you qualify and still receive Medicaid benefits. 

Rep. Montgomery said, “We want to allow seniors the opportunity to keep these things that are important to them, and encourage personal responsibility by encouraging people to purchase long term care insurance of some kind. We debate many important things up here; however, healthcare takes up one-fourth of our budget.  We need to make sure these funds are being spent in a way that will truly assist our aging population. We need to give seniors this voice.” 

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