Health Cuts Raising Seniors' Hackles

by David Gorn

TOPIC ALERT:

It doesn't sound like much, the meeting of Senate subcommittee #3.

But tomorrow's subcommittee hearing is the first time the Legislature will be discussing some of the $1.7 billion in proposed Medi-Cal cuts.

That includes elimination of the Adult Day Health Services program, which Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown hopes would save the state $177 million of general fund money. Lydia Missaelides, executive director of the California Association for Adult Day Services, doesn't believe it.

"It doesn't save money, it actually costs money," Missaelides said.

If the Adult Day Health Services program gets the ax, she said, that puts thousands of elder Californians in crisis. "And where do people go when they're in crisis?" she asks, and then answers her own question. "To the most costly care you can get," she said. "The emergency room."

Many of the program's patients who have mental health issues are likely to end up in expensive psychiatric hospitals, she said. Patients with acute health conditions can end up going from the emergency room to the hospital.

"All of that costs more," Missaelides said. "And with Medi-Cal, their health care is paid by taxpayers, one way or another. This way is so much more expensive."

There's another big reason to avoid that route of care, Myssaelindes said -- the whole idea of adult day health care is to keep people in their homes, getting care from people they know and stayig out of institutions.

"There's a saying," Missaelides said. "The fastest way to a nursing home is through the hospital."

Missaelides said many people are planning to be in Sacramento for tomorrow's hearing. "Folks are so worried," she said. "Some of them are pretty frail, and it's hard for them to travel without assistance. But this is so important to people, and to their lives."

They are particularly worried because this latest budget cut proposal comes from a Democratic governor, which might not be as easy to deflect as the two previous attempts to eliminate adult day health services by Governor Schwarzenegger.

"It's really something," Missaelides said, "that the whole [health care reform] attempt at the national level, well, this is exactly the kind of system they're trying to develop. And we've been designing it for the past 30 years here in California. And now we're dismantling it."

 


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