Florida is the second worst state in the nation at providing home- and community-based health care options for seniors and the disabled, a new report says.
The AARP's scorecard says the result is that too many seniors are pushed into nursing homes.
Most seniors who need long-term health care would rather receive it at home, said Jack McRay, advocacy manager for AARP Florida. Providing home care is also cheaper than sending seniors to nursing homes.
But Florida spent just 22 percent of its long-term health care budget on home- and community-based care. Some of the top states in the study spent nearly 70 percent.
"It would be a much smarter investment strategy for Florida to use that resource in a more cost effective and productive manner and home and community based services is like a no-brainer," McRay said.
Federal laws that govern how Medicaid dollars are spent are partly to blame. Those provisions state that patients who meet certain requirements should be placed in nursing homes first.
“Home and community based services are considered optional services under Medicaid,” McRay said. “That, frankly, needs to be switched."
Overall, Florida ranked 46th on the AARP scorecard, which had 23 indicators, including affordability, quality of care, and support for family caregivers.
State lawmakers can also provide more support for home- and community-based health care options, he said.
Those options include nursing services, home heath aids, homemaker services and assistance with medications, bathing, hygiene, food nutrition and meals.
For those who can’t afford care, much of the burden falls on family members. Those caregivers provide almost $30 billion in care to Floridians, McRay said.
But when the burden becomes too much for family members, the cost of that care falls to the state and federal government, he said.
"If you provide home and community based serves for caregivers who are taking care of people who need assistance, it's a strategic and wise investment strategy," McRay said.