Connecticut seniors eligible for the state’s Home Care Program for Elders are facing lengthy wait times because of delays in processing paperwork, reports The CT Mirror.
The state Department of Social Services’ backlog of applications has left those who qualified for the program’s services waiting for critical services.
“It’s the new norm,” said Julia Evans Starr, executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Aging. “If you’re looking to get access to these home- and community-based supports, specifically through the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders, you can expect that it’s going to take many, many days beyond the 45 days” — the legal time frame for processing Medicaid applications.
Evans Starr called the home-care program for elders “the biggest nursing home diversion program that we have,” key to a larger state policy goal of expanding the use of home-based care as an alternative to nursing homes. While some state-administered home care programs have limited slots and waiting lists, the home care program for elders is open to anyone over 65 who meets the financial and needs criteria, with no space limits or waiting list.
But advocates say seniors are left waiting for the program anyway, because DSS takes months to approve applications. The home care program has been significantly below budget this fiscal year, with fewer enrollees than expected. Evans Starr said many people have died or gone into nursing homes while waiting for their applications to be processed.
DSS officials have acknowledged the challenges they face in processing applications for all the programs the department runs. The number of eligibility workers is down more than 30 percent in the past decade, despite rising demand for services.
One attorney has filed a federal complaint on behalf of 5,000 people over the DSS’ delay in handling the Medicaid portion of applications for the program, arguing that more employees are needed for processing applications within the federal timeframe of 45 days.
Workers handling applications in the DSS’ regional offices are overworked, and the whole system of obtaining additional information and processing it is lengthy, says Sheldon Touman, an attorney for New Haven Legal Assistance Association, writes The CT Mirror.
“It’s like a black hole,” he said in the article.
Written by Alyssa Gerace