Providers, users of at-home care decry cutbacks
Paterson would cap allowances for personal aides at 12 hours
The governor would also roll back Medicaid payments to providers to 2008 levels and double the tax on gross receipts. Altogether, these measures would save about $73.9 million annually.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-C-Forestburgh, said she strongly opposes the cuts. "This is just such a turnaround on the philosophy of keeping people in homes and out of institutions," she said.
Providers say they've already been squeezed in prior budgets and these cuts will significantly lower the quality of care.
"Our population is aging out, and we have all these baby boomers that will need these benefits," said Fran Schafer, chief operating officer of Wellness Home Care, which serves Ulster, Sullivan and Orange counties. "This could drive more people into emergency departments, hospitals and into longer long-term care nursing homes that will cost more money than it would initially save."
Budget Office spokeswoman Jessica Bassett said the 12-hour daily cap affects relatively few home health patients, fewer than 5,000 of an estimated 73,000 people in New York state receiving personal care. This cap would save about $30 million. "We are seeing very large growth," Bassett said. "We feel there needs to be more stringent controls on that.
"In terms of better consumer care, if someone needs more than 12 hours a day of personal care, which is totally nonmedical, we want to make sure there is nothing more going on," she said. "There might be things going on that might be better dealt with in a managed environment."
Initially, Paterson intended the cap to apply to consumer-directed programs, where the patient hires the aides and designs a program.
Michael Mulhern, a paralyzed veteran, employs three nurse's aides for 23 hours a day of care at his home in Lumberland through such a program. He received a letter last month notifying him of the 12-hour cap.
Paterson's budget was recently amended and now exempts these programs.
But Mulhern, who is bedbound and has only limited mobility in his arms, is still worried he might lose his funding and will have to fire three aides, who wash, prepare his meals and help him get in and out of bed. "You come to rely on the people as family almost," he said. "This could have made people commit suicide."