Christine Stuart photo

While the demand for home health care services for the elderly and disabled continues to increase, the amount of Medicaid money available to agencies that provide the services has remained the same for the past two years.

Lawmakers, including those in leadership on both sides of the aisle lobbied in favor of increases last year, but failed to deliver. The situation this year isn’t looking much better.

But a handful of freshman lawmakers aren’t ready to give up just yet. They said Monday that their colleagues need to re-examine the short term budget impact because ultimately funding home health care will save the state money and prevent costly nursing home stays.

Rep. Michelle Cook, D-Torrington, said in 2007 the Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders saved the state more than $90 million by preventing or delaying nursing home placement. She said the bill, which died in the Appropriations Committee, will maximize federal Medicaid reimbursement rates and help home health care agencies get their rates closer to covering the cost of delivering services.

William Sullivan Jr., the chair of the Connecticut Association for Home Care and Hospice, said Medicaid reimburses home health care agencies 70 cents on the dollar or about 70 percent of their costs for every Medicaid patient they serve.

“Many of our agencies are facing a financial crisis largely as a result of underfunding by the states Medicaid program,” Sullivan said. “Home health care agencies are facing a grim reality either cut back on the number or discontinue service to the Medicaid patients that they can’t serve or continue their march to the inevitable very near term bankruptcy.” 

Proponents of home care, like Joseph Stango, say they’re not giving up on legislation that would boost Medicaid home health fees.

Proponents say the additional funding would help financially struggling agencies continue to care for patients at home, while eventually saving the state money by reducing expensive nursing home costs.

According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis the state currently spends about $190 million on home care services and a 5 percent rate increase will cost the state about $9.5 million per year.

But freshman lawmakers, like Rep. Cook, Rep. Chris Lyddy, D-Newtown, Rep. Lonnie Reed, D-Branford, Rep. Barbara Lambert, D-Milford, said the budget process isn’t finished yet and the changes can always be included as part of the budget document.