Fear builds over cut in Medicaid 2,000 may lose nursing home aid

October 27, 1992|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff Writer

Elizabeth Jones turned frail eight years ago, unable to take care of herself, talking in gibberish, forgetting daily events, even names. She had Alzheimer's disease.

Her family put her in Bon Secours Long-Term Care Facility in Ellicott City when they couldn't give her the hourly supervision she needed.

But, like thousands of others across the state, Mrs. Jones might lose the round-the-clock care if the $7.3 million Medicaid cutback for long-term care takes effect. Members of her family don't know how they will take care of her. "She can't dress herself," said her daughter, Patricia Mahle, a registered nurse. "She can't feed herself. She needs direct supervision 24 hours a day."

Nearly 2,000 senior citizens statewide -- about 40 in Howard County -- will become ineligible for Medicaid funding that helps pay for nursing home costs if the state Board of Public Works proposal to lower the monthly income cap to $1,055 stands. The General Assembly's Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review will decide at next month's meeting whether to cut funding.

The cut would take effect Dec. 1.

Thursday, the Lorien Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Columbia will hold a special meeting to discuss the proposal and alternatives with families and legislators.

The cut is expected to hurt not only families, but also nursing homes, which by law cannot discharge patients who can't pay unless they have someplace else to go.

"This is a real problem and a real crisis," said Les Goldschmidt, administrator at Bon Secours Extended Care Facility, where 34 Medicaid residents would be affected. "But we haven't told the families we will evict you -- just the opposite," he said.

"It will ruin the industry," said Henry R. Franklin, assistant administrator at Lorien, which has about 10 Medicaid beds.

"The places will have to go out of business," he said. "Places are going to have to take private-pay residents, who'll probably have to pay more."

The state cut funding for long-term care because, in some cases, families were bringing out-of-state relatives to Maryland to take advantage of the state's liberal health-care funding, said Del. Virginia M. Thomas, a District 13A Democrat.

"What the governor is saying is we can't afford to do this anymore," she said. "People don't want tax increases. They've made it very clear. So what are you going to do?"

Ms. Thomas said she and other legislators will meet with health department officials Nov. 27 to discuss such options as alternative living arrangements for some patients who can be released. But the state needs to do more, she said. "The whole health system is a disaster. It's like a shock trauma patient, and the state's putting a Band-Aid on it."

Meanwhile, people such as Joan Jeffries are saying the state has given them a raw deal. Mrs. Jeffries spent thousands of dollars caring for her 62-year-old husband, who had developed Alzheimer's. Other families spent as much as $100,000 before their life savings ran out and they put relatives in nursing homes.

Mrs. Jeffries said she put her husband in the Bon Secours nursing home with the state's assurance that it would cover the cost that her husband's Social Security and pension did not pay. She said she has no money to pay the difference and that the state is reneging on its offer.

"This is a real disaster to think what would happen to the victims -- the people in nursing homes and the rest," she said.

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