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Medicaid benefit cuts impact thousands of Alzheimer's patients

Posted December 12, 2012
Updated December 13, 2012

— Changes to state Medicaid rules that will cut benefits to group home residents across the state will also affect between 3,000 and 4,000 people with Alzheimer's disease who live in adult care facilities.

The federal government is pulling 40 percent of its funding out of adult care facilities under new Medicaid rules that aim to ensure the same personal care eligibility standards exist for people no matter where they live, instead of having a lower standard for people in institutional care.

Those rules take effect Jan. 1, and Alzheimer's patients were informed Wednesday that they may be forced out of their homes if state lawmakers don't come up with a solution.

"The time I used to take with your mother to bathe her and to give her the nurturing that she needed? Now, I've got to cut that in half because I don' t have any funding, which means I've got to cut my staff in half," said Julie Brown, the administrator of Cambridge Hills Assisted Living in Pittsboro.

The state Department of Health and Human Services requested a waiver from the federal government that would prevent Alzheimer's patients from losing Medicaid benefits, but it was denied Tuesday night.

Budget changes approved last summer set aside $39.7 million to help adult care homes with Medicaid reimbursements for personal care services, such as feeding or bathing. The language of the law doesn't include special care units housing Alzheimer's patients or group homes for people with mental illness or developmental disabilities.

"We have been working to try to raise awareness of the need to have a Plan C, since this was Plan B, and it's fallen on deaf ears," said Evelyn Hawthorne, a legislative consultant for the North Carolina Assisted Living Association.

Alzheimer's patient Alzheimer's patients could lose care because of funding cuts

That money was intended to help bridge the gap until lawmakers find a new source of funding, but for now, Alzheimer's patients are not eligible for help unless lawmakers or the governor direct state health officials to change their rules for the emergency fund.

Alice Watkins, executive director of Alzheimer's North Carolina, said the cuts will force some low-income patients out of their homes.

"Where do they go? Who's going to take them in?" Watkins said. "The state has an obligation to take care of them."

Lawmakers are evaluating all options to keep funding the Alzheimer's units, said Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.

"We anticipated that the Department of Health and Human Services would be working on a backup plan," said Dollar, chairman of both the House Appropriations Committee and the House Health and Human Services Committee.

DHHS Secretary Al Delia declined to comment Thursday.

House Speaker Thom Tillis has asked Gov. Beverly Perdue to call lawmakers to Raleigh for a special legislative session to address the issue. The governor has been working behind the scenes on a solution, but a spokesman said details wouldn't be announced until next week.

"Gov. Perdue recognized in her veto message that the budget passed by the General Assembly would cut or eliminate services to our state’s most vulnerable and sick," spokesman Pearse Edwards said. "The governor is concerned about what she’s hearing from advocates relating to residents in special care units and is exploring all legal options on this front."

84 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Dec 17, 2:43 p.m.

    @mishizdaish, the "do unto others" crowd does not care. They are the majority now in our state's leadership and you need to get used to this sort of apathy.

    I agree with you and find their "family values" sadistic.

  • mishizdaish Dec 14, 10:53 a.m.

    I work in the Community featured in this story and was the one who contacted WRAL.
    I spend every day with these Residents and have dedicated my time to learning their stories. Let me assure everyone that they have not and do not "milk the system". These are people have bled for this country, through the Depression and WWII. Some of our Residents were farmers, providing food to their communities, and never made much money. Some of our Residents have PhDs and worked as Professors or researches in some of the country's top universities, and still need to be on Medicaid. There are many reasons why one receives Medicaid. If this does not get fixed, we could lose half our Residents. One of our Residents is blind and has no family or friends to help them. These folks WILL be homeless and will not receive the care they need to survive. This is how we repay the generation that made our country what it is today.

  • dsalter Dec 14, 10:44 a.m.

    Unfortunately, there are those who end up with catastropic illnesses and it's true their families are helpless to assist. A sickness like alzheimers can affect anyone...at anytime. I know people right now with lucrative bank accounts that are affected by this. If someone goes to a nursing home for extended care..it will cost over $4,000 per month...per person...for that care. If they have money...it won't last unless they're a millionaire. They'll go on medicare while hospitalized then on medicaid in the nursing home after the money is gone. So if you have parents..you could very well find yourself in this mind boggling situation one day. So don't be too critical. This problem needs to be addressed.

  • dbw Dec 14, 10:03 a.m.

    Can we be clear here...this issue has been in front of state legislators for seven years. The Affordable Care Act did not cause this, but rather a blatant disregard for frail elders in our state. These are not people who are "milking the system" or abusing benefits, these are people who paid their taxes and had the audacity to get old and sick. Now these fragile elders, who need more specialized care than what their families can provide, even if they had families who could provide it, are being denied care....they will be homeless. There is no where for them to go. Communities who provide care are already struggling to come up with resources to care for these residents based on the continual cuts in their reimbursement rates.
    Let's get real people - now is the time to put aside politics, do what needs to be done, and take care of the most vulnerable people in our society. Now is the time to contact our legislators and hold them accountable for failing our frail elders.

  • xylem01 Dec 14, 9:45 a.m.

    why should our taxes pay to take care of people that can't take care of themselves? they had their entire lives to save or rely on family & friends. that's it. stop the spending.autismawareness

    Autism acting up on you today sweetie?

  • dsalter Dec 14, 9:34 a.m.

    why should our taxes pay to take care of people that can't take care of themselves? they had their entire lives to save or rely on family & friends. that's it. stop the spending. we are 17 trillion in debt. don't you get it? SEVENTEEN TRILLION!

    autismawareness

    True...there are a lot of people in this country who have been on the take from day one. Their families taught them to milk the system and that's all they know. But, on the other hand...there's a lot of people who were working in textile plants in this state that lost their jobs when Clinton signed the IFTA. They had no jobs...no retirement...no anything except what was left they had paid for along the way. Like a home. Some need help...some don't. But it is what it is. This country got in the hole by rebuilding Iraq infrastructure with contractors ripping off the government, paying out billions for crooked bank dealings, and setting up temporary jobs that have since played out with money borrowered from China.

  • nic Dec 14, 9:14 a.m.

    Funny there was a 20 million dollar surplus Bev "found" in DHHS to allocate to PreK (babysitting)but she can't manage to call a special session or reallocate money to help the most vunerable in our state.I agree with another poster that she doesn't want to call a special session and have the legislature undo her closed door Dix deal.

  • dollibug Dec 14, 8:55 a.m.

    This is what happens when money is taken from SS and Medicare that was meant for SS and Medicare but has been put into Obamacare....something is very wrong with the people who are trying to run (RUIN) the country....GOD HELP AMERICA....

  • Strawberry Letter 23 Beth Wilson Dec 13, 7:58 p.m.

    GREAT NEWS! Wow! THANKS, Obamacare! NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Maybe this has nothing to do with Obamacare. Regardless, I hate it for them. These people are already in a very sad, bad, position.

    Beth

  • 20K Dec 13, 6:21 p.m.

    Make the rich pay for it!!! They should be ashamed of having so much when there are people who have so little!

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