Providing care in the home instead of in a nursing home could save the state of Florida $745 million in fiscal savings annually.
That’s according to a recent report released from Florida TaxWatch, an independent research institute. The report is an analysis of the possible safety benefits, fiscal savings and quality outcomes from expanding home- and community-based services in Florida.
Florida is in the midst of a demographic shift. Over the next two decades, the state will see its 65-and-older population increase by more than 50%, surpassing the majority of the nation, as the state remains a popular retirement destination.
“More than any other age group, older Floridians will represent the largest category of population growth in the decades ahead,” Florida TaxWatch wrote in the report. “Furthermore, due to constant inbound migration from other states, especially among retirees, Florida ranks second in the U.S. for the percent of the population over 65 — a trend and ranking that will only grow over time as additional individuals age and relocate to Florida.”
Currently, most of Florida’s health care spending for older adults comes from institutionalized care. Only 37.1% of the state’s total long-term care spending goes towards home- and community-based services.
In addition to annual fiscal savings of $745 million, investments in home- and community-based services have kept seniors safe amid the public health emergency. Only 2% of seniors receiving home-based care services contracted COVID-19, compared to 37% of nursing home residents and 14% of residents living in assisted living facilities between March and July 2020.
“The pandemic has also shown the intricate connection between physical safety and social isolation,” the organization wrote in the report. “For many residential facilities, measures were put in place to reduce the spread of contagion, often producing social isolation and loneliness in residents as a byproduct. In contrast, providing physically safer care in a home setting has the added benefit of potentially minimizing social isolation and loneliness.”
Plus, death rates among seniors receiving home-based care nationwide were less than 1% between March and July 2020. Meanwhile, the death rate at nursing homes and assisted living facilities during the same period of time was 11% and 5%, respectively.
Rising wages and operational costs, paired with flat reimbursement levels, has made it hard on home- and community-based providers in Florida. Deciding to allocate more care to the home may be putting the cart before the horse.
“Due to several external forces, we have made the difficult decision to close our locations that provide Medicaid personal care and support services in the state of Florida,” a Bayada spokesperson said in a statement shared with Home Health Care News. “This will impact four of our locations, a small percentage of our total Bayada client base in the state.”
In order to maximize investment in home- and community-based services, Florida TaxWatch suggests establishing standard quality metrics for these services.
The organization also recommends that policymakers reduce waitlists to state-funded programs, such as the Community Care for the Elderly or Home Care for the Elderly.