Monday, June 29, 2009

Tennessee AARP backs more home care choices

By Lucas L. Johnson II • ASSOCIATED PRESS • June 29, 2009 Tennessee AARP officials say they're pleased with legislation passed this session that creates a new housing option for people who receive long-term care services, but they're hoping to make progress on other laws affecting the elderly. Gov. Phil Bredesen approved legislation last year that changes TennCare — the state's expanded Medicaid program — so it more evenly distributes funding between nursing homes and home- and community-based service providers. Before the law, nursing homes received 98 percent of long-term care funds in Tennessee. This session, the legislature approved The Adult Care Homes Act for people who receive long-term care services but don't want to live in large nursing homes. "It's fitting that one year after Gov. Phil Bredesen signed the Long-Term Care Community Choices Act, lawmakers gave us a new choice that allows us to remain in our communities when we cannot stay in our homes," said Rebecca Kelly, Tennessee's AARP director. "AARP looks forward to working with legislators next year to create more of these choices for care." Patrick Willard, AARP Tennessee's advocacy director, said members of a special joint committee on long-term care saw the effectiveness of the adult care homes when they visited some in Portland, Ore., earlier this year. He said each home provides a comfortable environment with a licensed caregiver around the clock. "The committee members were really impressed that you could take this small home and create a … family-like setting for people, where they would sit together for meals and everybody had their own rooms," Willard said. Willard said the AARP is also seeking "some common ground" on a proposal to place caps on damages in lawsuits against nursing homes. The measure failed in a House subcommittee this session but could be brought up again next year. "Obviously the consumer is caught in the middle here, between a powerful nursing home industry and powerful lawyers," Willard said. "And what we want to try and do is figure out a way that the consumer is protected, but that there is not an undue burden placed on those that are providing the services."

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