America's Long-Term Care for Elderly, Disabled Has Much Room to Improve

Ederly careFor the first time, there's a state-by-state scorecard of America's performance in providing long-term services and support to senior citizens and people with disabilities, and the results overall aren't much to brag about.

AARP's Public Policy Institute, The Commonwealth Fund and The SCAN Foundation jointly released the report: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers.

The study measured four areas: affordability and access; choice of setting and provider; quality of life and quality of care; and support for family caregivers. It assesses each state's performance as a whole and on 25 individual indicators.

LTSS -- also called long-term care services -- includes a host of services and supports for people who need help with routines such as bathing, eating, for example, because of a physical, cognitive or chronic health condition that isn't going away any time soon. LTSS is mainly about one person helping another with these activities, but also includes access to gear like wheelchairs and modifications like ramps.

The Best, The Worst and Why


What fits the bill of a "high-performing LTSS system"? According to the report, for starters, people should be able to easily find and afford the services they need. They should also be able to have some control over where they receive services and who provides them. Services should maximize positive outcomes and people should be treated with respect. Personal preferences should be honored when possible. The needs of family caregivers are assessed and addressed so that they can keep helping without being overburdened. Care should be organized, coordinated or integrated with health-related services, as well as with social supports.

Based on those standards, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, and Wisconsin were the top performers. The five bottom dwellers: Indiana, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Alabama and Mississippi.

The study acknowledges that some aspects of a high performing LTSS system could not be assessed because adequate data, consistent across all states are not available. For example, quality of care measures are only available for nursing homes services and home health, not for community-based home and community services. Despite the limitations, it is at least a healthy starting point to draw a picture of America's LTSS system.

"This Scorecard is a critical first step toward creating a much more person- and family-centered system of care that delivers services honoring each individual's dignity and choices," said Bruce Chernof, president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation, in a prepared statement. "To fully realize the vision of a high-performing long-term services and supports system, we must measure performance, track improvements and create opportunities for states to learn from each other."

The Bigger Economic and Policy Picture

According to the study, there's a strong correlation between broader economic factors and state performance, though there are exceptions. Many of the laggards in LTSS are also the states with the lowest median incomes and highest rates of poverty. Another variable is Medicaid. It is the primary source of public funding for LTSS, and determines what types of LTSS are available to those with low and modest incomes. Given the wide latitude state have in setting rules for which of their residents qualify for various services, which services they will cover, and what they will pay, state policies are a key factor.

The study found that generally, states with the highest level of performance have public policies that "Improve access to services and choices in their delivery by directing state Medicaid programs to serve more people in need and offer alternatives to nursing homes that most consumers prefer. Establish a single point of system entry to help people find needed information and more easily access services. Improve support for family caregivers by offering legal protections as well as other services to address caregiver needs."

The report is explicit: "All states need to vastly improve in areas including home care, assisted living, nursing home care, and supports for family caregivers, and more efficiently spend the substantial funds they currently allocate to LTSS."

Improvement would be an investment with huge returns. According to the study, if all states reached levels currently achieved by leading states, the study finds, the U.S. could realize significant gains in health, better care experiences and potentially lower costs:
  • 667,171 more individuals with disabilities would be covered by Medicaid if all states could achieve the rate of the top-performing state on this indicator.
  • There would be 201,531 fewer costly and unnecessary nursing home admissions if all states could do as well as the state with the lowest rate of unnecessary nursing home admissions.
  • There would be 120,602 fewer avoidable hospitalizations -- at a savings of $1.3 billion nationally -- if all states could achieve the rate of avoidable hospitalizations of the state that performs best on this indicator.

"This report will help states make and sustain targeted improvements so that people can live and age with dignity in their own homes and communities," said Susan Reinhard, senior vice president for public policy at AARP, in a prepared statement. "Achieving a high-performing long-term supports and services system will require a concerted effort from both the public and private sectors."



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7 Comments

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ACoyle

It's sad when politics and finances get in the way of quality elder care. So many seniors are suffering because of it. Hopefully the situation sees some improvement soon. I think another important point to consider is the kind of care our elderly ones are getting. With elder abuse on the rise, we definitely need to focus more attention on this area. One of the best ways to get reliable homecare is by using an agency that offers ClearCare care management software. This innovative technology allows family members to keep an eye on their loved ones, even when they can't be there personally. We use ClearCare with my Mom, and have been so impressed with how great it works, and how easy it is to use. I hope more families start looking into this software so we can eradicate elder abuse.

September 21 2011 at 12:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jo Ann

like so many others........i've paid into ss for over 30 years and no i need it i'm having problems getting it. it stinks big time. come from any other country and get benefits, that is so wrong!!!!!!!!!!! it should only be available to those that have paid into it or at least served in the military. all government folks should paying in and doing the obama care and see how fast things change!

September 15 2011 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Setanta

don't worry...obama pelosi reid clinton kennedy dodd health care reform will make it all better ! /////////sarcasm.

September 09 2011 at 12:21 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
dmuffman41

The current rule about getting medicare after becoming disabled and having to hire a lawyer to get social security disability, is that you have a 2 year waiting period to get on medicare. Who in the same hell made this ruling? Show me one person that is disabled that doesnt need health coverage. After being diagnosed with MS in 2005 and confined to a wheelchair by 2006, I sold everything I had just to pay doctors, hospitals, and providers. Going hungry was getting real close by the time I got medicare. Now if I would have been a miniority pushing out babys as fast as I could make them, I would have been taken care of. After paying into SS for almost 30 years I had to fight to get it, where as people that never paid in a dime get all the perks.

September 08 2011 at 5:47 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to dmuffman41's comment
Setanta

you're not alone .....and the same morons running the show will now tell you---you have IT now---. why are we paying for frauds and illegals and why are the political ****** more concerned with THEM ? and last but not least---i can't wait for this obama care to kick in ----LOL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! can't wait to hear THEM rant about the lack of PROVIDERS,waits and refusals.

September 09 2011 at 12:20 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Jo Ann

you are right on! i agree.

September 15 2011 at 1:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
msbriglio

Sates have pursued " reimbursement neglect " in order to rebalance the system for more home and community based services. Another words they have not adequately funded the Skilled Nursing Facilties and have shifted money to home and community based services. Robbing peter to pay paul is not a sound policy but that is exactly what Connecticut and many other staes have done. This is destroying the infrustructure that safely cares for seniors. As an owner of a Home care company we can safely say that we need strong Skilled Nursing Facilities in the healthcare continuum.

September 08 2011 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mclkarim

I never thought I would ever have to deal with nursing home care for my mother, but I certainly did. Medicare only paid for 100 days. In 2007 nursing home fees were $5,000 a month. I have no idea what they are now. Who can afford that? What is someone supposed to do when their loved one can no longer take care of themselves and you don't have the income to pay the nursing home?

September 08 2011 at 2:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply