By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts
Massachusetts ranks 11th in the nation when it comes to meeting the long-term care needs of older residents and people with disabilities, and even more must be done, at an accelerated pace, to meet changing demographic demands. Specific areas of concern in Massachusetts include affordability, the quality of life and quality of care, and effective transition dimensions. This is according to a new, comprehensive, state-by-state Scorecard from AARP with support of the nation’s leading long-term care organizations, the Commonwealth Fund, and the SCAN Foundation.
“Picking Up the Pace of Change: A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers” – the third in a series of reports – ranks each state overall and on 25 specific indicators in five key dimensions: affordability and access; choice of setting and provider; quality of life and quality of care; support for family caregivers; and, effective transitions between nursing homes, hospitals and homes.
Massachusetts has made some progress to improve long-term services and supports for older adults and people with disabilities, as highlighted in this Scorecard. But, proposals in Washington, D.C., to drastically cut federal funding for the Massachusetts Medicaid program would threaten these advancements, likely resulting in our most vulnerable citizens losing the lifesaving supports that they count on.
The single strongest predictor of a state’s long-term care system is the reach of its Medicaid long-term care safety net. That’s why AARP is also fighting to expand services provided at home and in the community, by shifting funds away from more expensive nursing home care.
Massachusetts ranks 15th in the nation with 45.5 percent of Medicaid and state-funded Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) going to Home- and Community-based Services (HCBS) – the care setting that most Massachusetts residents prefer. This represents a decline from 2014, when Massachusetts had 48.7 percent of funding dedicated to HCBS. LTSS is a diverse set of services designed to help older people and those with disabilities. Services can be provided in a person’s home, in a community setting such as an adult day health center, or in a group residential facility like a nursing home.
Today, unpaid family caregivers provide the bulk of care for older Massachusetts residents, in part because the cost of long-term care remains unaffordable for most middle-income families. In Massachusetts, more than 844,000 residents help their aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones stay at home by providing assistance with bathing and dressing, transportation, finances, complex medical tasks like wound care and injections, and more. The value of this unpaid care totals about $11.6 billion.
That’s why AARP Massachusetts successfully passed the Caregiver, Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act into law in 2016.
This year, AARP Massachusetts is fighting for a caregiver tax credit to help family caregivers who face financial challenges as they help their loved ones remain at home.
These are all part of our advocacy efforts to help older adults and family caregivers, but we know that more needs to be done, and we must pick up the pace of change.
The full state Scorecard, along with an interactive map of all state rankings and information, is available at www.longtermscorecard.org.
Stay up to date on the latest caregiving and advocacy news with AARP Massachusetts. Visit www.aarp.org/ma or call toll-free at 866-448-3621.