Ray Gora / Lincoln Times-News
The North Carolina General Assembly finalized a temporary fix last week designed to prevent thousands of residents of group homes and special dementia units throughout the state from being left with no place to go.
Even so, some care givers in Lincoln County said they remain concerned that residents will be forced out.
The measure would provide aid to those patients losing certain Medicaid services by allowing $40 million set aside to supplement Medicaid payments through this summer to adult care home residents to also help residents of other facilities, according to the Associated Press.
Services, such as bathing or meals, were at risk of being cut for those with severe mental illness, developmental disabilities or Alzheimer’s disease due to new rules reducing or eliminating Medicaid’s coverage for these residents.
Lincoln Count’s Rep. Jason Saine was a co-sponsor of the measure in the state House, where the measure pass unanimously. The bill also saw no opposition in the Senate, and Lincoln County’s Sen. David Curtis was among those casting a vote for it.
The Times-News was unable to obtain a comment from either legislator on the bill.
The General Assembly sent the proposal to Gov. Pat McCrory for signing on Thursday.
Its stated purpose is “to provide temporary, short-term financial assistance to (1) group homes serving residents determined not to be eligible for Medicaid-covered personal care services as a result of changes to eligibility criteria that became effective on Jan. 1, 2013, and (2) special care units serving residents who qualify for Medicaid-covered personal care services on or after Jan. 1, 2013.”
However, the possibility for a more permanent solution remains unclear.
Regardless, the impact is certainly being felt locally, particularly regarding reduced Medicaid eligibility for Alzheimer’s patients.
Cindy Shepherd, executive director of Carillon Assisted Living of Lincolnton, told the Times-News last week that she fears some of her residents may be cut off from access to services.
“The changes that Medicaid has made and demands on all facilities in North Carolina are creating a real hardship on some of them,” she said. “Carillon will make it through, but I’m afraid we will probably lose a few residents due to the changes.”
Additionally, the inability of those most affected to lobby on their own behalf particularly leaves a mark.
“As to me personally, I get very passionate about this subject since the residents can’t speak for themselves,” she said.
Carillon CEO Karen Moriarty has been pushing the cause both in Raleigh and Washington in an attempt to change the new rules and to request a permanent plan be developed, Shepherd noted.
Carillon has the only secured unit for Alzheimer’s patients in Lincoln County, and Shepherd said she believes the state is failing to recognize the need to put these patients in secured areas.
“Our biggest issue with what the state is doing is with our Alzheimer’s residents,” Shepherd explained. “They either don’t know, don’t care or don’t appreciate the fact that Alzheimer’s and dementia are diseases of the brain.”
“The brain controls the entire body,” she added. “They are taking cognitive abilities out of the mix when looking at the amount of time it takes to care for an Alzheimer’s resident and cutting our reimbursement for residents on Medicaid.”