ANNAPOLIS — A Carroll delegate's proposal that would allow middle-income elderlyto receive state health care without first exhausting their financial resources will be studied this summer for possible implementation.
Del. Donald B. Elliott, a Carroll Republican and owner of the Union Bridge Pharmacy, has been working to revise the state's long-term nursing care system for the last two years. This year, the bill is co-sponsored by Del. John G. Gary, an Anne Arundel Republican.
Elliott has proposed creating a public-private partnership in which senior citizens could purchase a state-approved long-term care insurance policy and use the benefits to pay for nursing home expenses.
But once the policy's benefits are exhausted, the participant would not be required to deplete assets, such as a house or other investments, to qualify for the state's Medical Assistance Program for the poor.
Currently, senior citizens often must "spend down" to meet income and asset eligibility requirements for Medicaid, the health assistance program for the poor partially financed by the federal government.
Elliott's proposal would allow policy holders to protect their assets up to certain amounts and shield those resources from Medicaid eligibility requirements.
For instance, if an individual purchased a long-term care insurance policy with a face value of $100,000, assets up to that value would not be considered in determining a participant's eligibility for public health care.
The House Economic Matters Committee voted to conduct a thorough analysis of the costs and benefits of the proposed program during the interim before decidingwhether to commit to it.
"I'm pleased they've decided to study it," said Elliott. "It shows that the committee is serious about the issue."
The bill also is intended to alleviate the burden on the Medical Assistance Program to provide increasingly more costly long-termnursing care by encouraging individuals to insure against those costs.
Legislators now are considering ways to restructure medical assistance to reduce costs to taxpayers without diminishing services.
The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Maryland Health Resources Planning Commission each supported the concept of thelegislation.
"A cooperative effort between the public and privatesectors represents the most feasible approach to meeting the astronomical costs involved in long-term care," said written testimony from the commission.
But both agencies expressed concern that the proposed program actually could increase Medicaid costs and advised further study. The agencies also recommended that the legislation be broadened to include less expensive and less restrictive home- and community-based care, rather than just nursing home care.
The Maryland Association for Adult Day Care also advocated expanding the scope of thelegislation to cover its clients.
The bill is based on a Connecticut program. Three other states have developed models and have received grants to implement programs from a private foundation promoting long-term care insurance for the elderly.