Raleigh, N.C. — The state may look red in the Legislative Building, but beyond its walls, North Carolina is quickly graying – and advocates say Medicaid cuts proposed in the state Senate’s $21.1 billion budget fail to meet the needs of the state’s growing elderly population, which is expected to double in the next 20 years.
The cut of about $32 million from the program leaves more than 15,000 elderly, blind and disabled adults without Medicaid coverage or eligibility, and a provision slashing nearly $1 million from a grant funding in-home services for elderly adults could cut services for 1,500 seniors, advocates said in a news conference Tuesday.
Elder care advocates urged lawmakers to prioritize the grant program, which eases Medicaid costs by keeping seniors living at home rather than in costly assisted living facilities. The grant combines state and federal money to fund services such as home-delivered meals, adult day care and transportation.
“We have grave concerns over the proposed Senate budget that puts the lives of seniors and adults with disabilities on the line,” said Kay Castillo, vice chairwoman of the North Carolina Coalition on Aging, a group of more than 30 organizations advocating for elderly state residents. “Now is not the time to cut services when we actually have an increased need for these services.”
The cuts would end Medicaid coverage for 338 elderly and disabled adults in Wake County living in assisted living facilities, according to data from the state’s Division of Aging and Adult Services.
As a result of the cut, more than 5,200 elderly and disabled adults in the state could be displaced, many of whom have nowhere to go, advocates said.
Proponents of the Senate budget have suggested that elderly adults can apply for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, but the law does not cover the long-term care that many elderly adults need.
Stacy Massey, vice president at Victorian Senior Care assisted living, said the centers, including facilities in Wake and Cumberland counties, house more than 500 residents on Medicaid.
“We’re here to try to ensure that they’re not losing the services they so deserve,” Massey said. “These aren’t people that are using the system. These are people who are entitled to care.”
Pam Lewis, activities director at North Pointe assisted living facility in Asheboro, said many of her residents are already struggling financially.
“Some of them have a hard time coping now,” Lewis said. “As activities director, I have to have toiletries as bingo prizes just so they’ll have soap and shampoo.”
She said the cuts will not only sap Medicaid coverage for 16 of the home’s residents, but could also affect jobs at the facility.
“If those residents can’t pay and can’t stay at our facility, it’s definitely going to affect our jobs,” she said. “It’s not just for the residents, but for all the people that care for them.”