September 1, 2013

MaineCare underfunding hurts long-term care

The crisis at nursing homes and assisted-living centers is getting some lawmakers' attention.

By Kelley Bouchard kbouchard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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St. Joseph's Manor in Portland

Press Herald file photo/Gordon Chibroski

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House Speaker Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, also plans to hold a series of round-table talks this fall, bringing together experts and others interested in addressing a wide variety of aging issues facing Maine, including long-term care. Eves said he hopes the talks produce legislation in 2014 that would bring substantial policy changes to everything from geriatric health care to senior housing to elder transportation.

"The crisis is not coming, it's here," Eves said. "St. Joseph's is just another example of what's happening across the state."

Eves noted that Maine faces significant challenges because it's the oldest state in the nation. Maine's median age -- 43.5 years -- is the highest in the United States, in part because the state also has a dwindling younger population, according to the Census. The state's percentage of people age 65 and older -- 17 percent -- is second only to Florida's 18.2 percent.

By 2030, more than 25 percent of Mainers will be age 65 or older, putting greater demand on long-term care facilities that are already overburdened.

Eves said the human and economic impact of Maine's aging population can be felt in every family and community, and all the way to the Legislature. He admitted that leadership has been lacking in dealing with mounting aging issues, in part because the state has limited resources.

"It's an enormous policy imperative that we must address," Eves said. "We'll be putting the spotlight on aging issues and hoping to build the political will to do things differently."

Faunce, administrator of the long-term care facilities in Penobscot, hopes to participate in both the study commission and the round-table discussions. He's ready to start now.

"For the short term, we need to address the funding issue," Faunce said. "Just because we don't fund it, doesn't mean the problem goes away. For the long term, we need to do some strategic planning, because there isn't enough money to go around now and that probably won't change." 

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or

kbouchard@mainetoday.com

Twitter: @KelleyBouchard

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