N.J. Shifts Toward Home-Based Services Through Privatized Medicaid Initiative

Home-based care is about to get a larger focus in New Jersey, which is seeking to further privatize its Medicaid program with a plan to hand over the reigns of the long-term care portion of its Medicaid budget to the four insurance companies that currently manage the rest of the state’s healthcare programs for the poor.

This could result in funding being dirverted away from nursing homes in favor of services and equipment for people who want to receive care in their homes, reports North Jersey’s The Record.

In theory, because care at home is cheaper than at nursing homes, insurance companies would have a financial incentive to create more home-based services.

“The goal is to provide care in a fully integrated setting and to create more long-term services and supports in the community,” said Lowell Arye, deputy commissioner for the state Department of Human Services. The state does not have projections about how much money will be saved on nursing home care or diverted to home care services.

AARP New Jersey said it supports the goal of giving older residents the financial assistance they need to pay for home care. But the group has concerns about what it sees as too rapid a timetable — a Jan. 1 start date — for shepherding nursing homes into managed care networks, said Evelyn Liebman, associate state director for advocacy. Liebman said AARP urged the state to develop a detailed plan for overseeing the managed care companies and their coverage and eligibility decisions.

“So many details have yet to emerge so it’s hard for us to say, ‘Yes, we like the plan’ or ‘No, we don’t like the plan,’ ” Liebman said. “But we certainly embrace the idea of trying to rebalance the long-term care system to give people more options.”

However, there is concern by some that this movement away from institutional care in favor of home-based care won’t actually be cost-effective. Nursing homes are increasingly taking care of a sicker, frailer population, whether it’s people with chronic illnesses or conditions, or those who have recently been discharged from hospitals seeking to curb the costs of long stays, says The Record. For either group, many of whom require around-the-clock care, it’s often more efficient to receive care in institutional settings.

The privatization plan is currently awaiting federal approval. Read the full piece here.

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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