2019-04-20 ed-homesp1-NCC0011439400 (copy)

A recent SoonerPoll survey found that 86 percent of Oklahomans support legislation to implement alternatives to nursing home care.

As Oklahomans age, they want more options for care in their homes.

Simultaneously, the state faces a growing number of aging citizens and a need to find a sustainable model for providing high-quality care.

To address these related issues, the 2018 Legislature formed the Oklahoma Long-term Care Services and Supports Advisory Committee, a broad-based panel charged with developing a stable, long-term plan to provide and finance elder care. After a year, the committee delivered its final plan Thursday.

Here’s a critical fact: More than 24% of Oklahoma’s population in the next decade will be older than 60. But Oklahoma ranks second in the number of nursing home residents with low-care needs, an unsustainable system.

Nursing homes have a role in the continuum of care options, but the state needs a more robust alternative that allows aging citizens to maintain a productive, healthy and happy life with the support they need at an affordable public and personal cost.

The committee advocates a system of home- and community-based services as a means to achieve relatively low-cost care with better health outcomes, lower hospital and nursing home use and a better quality of life. Two key parts of that idea are expanded use of ADvantage Waiver and a program of all-inclusive care for the elderly, known as PACE.

ADvantage Waiver provides an array of home-based services such as physical therapy, personal care, meal delivery and skilled nursing. It is a Medicaid waiver to stay in a home setting rather than a nursing home.

On average, the Medicaid daily cost of a nursing home is $127.34, four times higher than that $29.63 for ADvantage Waiver, according to Life Senior Services.

PACE programs are funded through Medicaid and Medicare and offer programs at three centers in Oklahoma: Life PACE in Tulsa, Cherokee Elder Care in Tahlequah and Valir PACE in Oklahoma. These offer services such as nursing, therapy and transportation.

PACE programs save the state about $9.5 million a year.

The Legislature was wise to form the long-term advisory committee. It would be wiser still if it will listen to its recommendations. Demographic trends make change inevitable. The remaining question is whether the state will embrace that change in a healthy, affordable fashion or stumble forward without a plan.

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