AUSTIN (AP) — Texas does a good job moving people out of nursing homes but could do better keeping the elderly out of the facilities in the first place, experts told a Texas House committee on Tuesday.
The state has moved 27,000 people out of nursing homes since 2001, said Chris Traylor, commissioner of the Department of Aging and Disability Services. He said nearly three out of every 10 people nationwide moved from nursing homes back into the community are from Texas.
“It has been a really remarkable success on the state’s part to be able to provide that option,” Traylor told the Human Services Committee.
He said the agency will do more to let people know there are alternatives to nursing homes, since keeping people at home generally makes them happier and costs less. Another area the agency is focusing on is helping veterans.
The Legislature is not in session, but House Speaker Joe Straus has ordered the committee to explore strategies for long-term care that keep people out of nursing homes. What the committee learns will be used to make new laws when the Legislature meets again in 2013.
One key problem facing the state is the rising costs associated with Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled that is funded with both state and federal dollars. The majority of people on Medicaid are elderly and too poor to pay for the health care costs not covered by Medicare.
Committee chairman Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, warned that the number of Texans 65 or older is expected to double over the next 20 years, so finding more cost-efficient ways of meeting their needs is important.
Trey Berndt, representing AARP, praised the state for moving people out of nursing homes but said it should do more to prevent sending them to nursing homes at all. Since between 40 percent and 50 percent of nursing home admissions come from hospitals, Berndt said the state could do better encouraging hospitals to send patients to community-based programs instead.
“Compared to other states, we had 16 percent of people in nursing homes who had low-care needs, when the top state, Maine, had only 1 percent,” Berndt said. He added that lowering the number of people in nursing homes would save the state Medicaid money because community programs cost a third of what nursing home care costs.
Traylor said the state is expanding the number of offices where the elderly and their families can get information about the care programs available that will allow the elderly to remain living at home.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)