Local News

N.C. Senate's Proposed Budget Cuts $2 Billion In Medicaid

Posted May 10, 2005

— A benefit that enables thousands of people to receive personal care services is in jeopardy after the North Carolina Senate voted for extensive Medicaid cuts.

Nearly 21,000 blind, elderly and disabled people across the state receive medical assistance -- not nursing care -- that allows people to stay in their own homes.

The senate's budget reduces Medicaid costs by nearly $2 billion by cutting those who are eligible.

Advocates for the personal care services say cutting those who are eligible for Medicaid will affect these people and ultimately cost more for the state.

Grace Boone receives personal care three times a week. Arthritis and blindness make living alone impossible for the 87-year-old, who lives with her daughter.

"The only other thing would be a nursing home that the state would have to pay for," Boone's daughter, Ellen Huber, said.

Home health-care providers say the senate's budget would actually make it easier for people such as Boone to qualify for institutional care, which they say is not a long-term savings.

"The average for home health care is $700 a month," Tim Rogers, a representative of the Association for Home and Hospice Care, said. "It's $969 for a rest home and $3,200 for a nursing home."

Senate leaders say Medicaid spending is getting out of control.

Sen. Marc Basnight's office said that spending in the state went up $2 billion over the last five years.

The federally funded Medicare program may pick up home health care costs for some of those who are cut.

Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, who is looking to the North Carolina House to make changes, calls the cuts a mistake.

"I believe what happened when they looked at the numbers, they thought if they could cut the qualification and let fewer people qualify, it wouldn't be heinous," Perdue said. "It's not the right thing to do."

Boone's family says home health care is something they need.

"I don't think she would last long in an institution," Huber said.

The state is also working on a plan to insure those who would not be covered by the federally funded Medicare.

Basnight's office told WRAL that if something is not done, Medicaid costs would be 30 percent of the state budget in the next five years.

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