Last Monday, 400 seniors and senior advocates packed the City Council chambers for the preliminary budget hearing on aging issues. While only seven City Council Members attended the hearing, the issues addressed at the hearing impact seniors in every district. The problem is that the Department for the Aging budget has remained flat for years. Given the rapidly aging population and growing need for services that enable individuals to age at home and live safely in their communities – something we all want – that needs to change. Immediately.
If Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council truly care about our city’s older residents and senior citizens they need to make funding for seniors more of a priority.
According to a new AARP New York survey, New York City’s 50+ want more funding for homecare and caregiver assistance, on-site services that help seniors age in place and caseworkers to help individuals access needed benefits.
Inadequate funding for many services, including home health care and caseworkers – has created impossible situations for seniors a penny wise, pound foolish situation for taxpayers.
Take Arlene, an active, vibrant 89-year-old woman who recently suffered a fall that required hospitalization, followed by placement in a rehab center. She is now healthy enough to go home, but needs help getting around. The rehab center won’t discharge her until she has Homecare, but there’s a long waitlist for services. Her insurance company doesn’t want to continue paying for unnecessary rehab – meaning Arlene may wind up on Medicaid and in a nursing home, at much higher taxpayer cost.
For people like Arlene and 1.2 million other seniors, AARP urges the Council to include in the new city budget $15 million for baselined funding for key services like Homecare, onsite support services for communities with large elderly populations, and case management.
It might seem like a tall order given that the city is facing potential major federal funding cuts. But failing to fund these programs would be foolish. It costs taxpayers $100,000 on average to cover the cost of a nursing home for one person for one year. City taxpayers already fund the city’s portion of Medicaid – which pays for nursing home care – to the tune of $5.4 billion a year. Without sufficient home care, case management and similar programs designed to keep people safely at home, our nursing home costs will climb. The $15 million investment AARP seeks would only cover nursing home care for 150 seniors for one year, but, spent on preventive services, would help many more people, like Arlene, to live independently – and at far lower cost – at home.
Our elected officials owe that to Arlene, and to all of our parents, grandparents, spouses and loved ones. And, they owe it to taxpayers to make wise investment decisions.
Beth Finkel is AARP’s New York State Director.