Senate Aging and Youth Committee Examines Long Term Care Issues

Harrisburg – The Senate Aging and Youth Committee, chaired by Sen. Kim Ward (R-39), held a public hearing Wednesday in Beaver County on long term care in Pennsylvania.

Senator Ward, Sen. Elder Vogel (R-47) and other committee members heard testimony from state Aging Secretary Brian Duke, as well as representatives of Area Agencies on Aging, adult day services, homecare agencies and others.

“Thanks to advances in medicine and health care, Pennsylvanians are living longer. It is important that individuals, families and policymakers keep up with such progress and plan for long term care that strives for independence, with comfort and dignity,” said Ward.

The hearing was held at the Center at the Mall in Beaver Valley Mall in Senator Vogel’s district. The center is recognized as one of the best in Pennsylvania.

“This was a very informative hearing and I believe that we as a committee have a much better understanding of the many issues and challenges that Pennsylvania faces now and into the future when it comes to long term care,” Senator Vogel said.  “A substantial portion of Pennsylvania’s population is made up of senior citizens and that is certainly going to increase. It is important that we take steps to make sure we have adequate long term care facilities and that the health and well being of the residents living in those facilities is protected.”

Secretary Duke noted that Pennsylvania ranks fifth in the nation in the number of people age 60 and older, and by the year 2020, one in four state residents will be over the age of 60. He said that in November the department will begin working with long term care providers and others to create a four-year plan to serve older Pennsylvanians and people living with disabilities.

According to the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, the bulk of Pennsylvania’s long term care system is spent on nursing homes – about $3.5 billion compared to in-home services, which account for $386 million.

It was noted that difficult economic circumstances will require difficult choices, as Medical Assistance long term care and health care in general will continue to drive much of the Commonwealth’s budget into fiscal year 2012-13 and beyond.

The role of Pennsylvania’s 526 Senior Centers was also discussed. The centers often serve as an entry point into the long term care system.

The need for long term care is not limited to seniors. There are more than 260 Adult Day Services centers across Pennsylvania serving 11,300 Pennsylvanians under age 60 who are not capable of full-time independent living.

“This hearing is obviously just one step in an ongoing discussion regarding the need to update the Commonwealth’s long term care system to reflect greater longevity and tighter budgets,” said Ward. “I appreciate the input of Secretary Duke and all of the stakeholders who made the trip to Beaver County today. Working together, we can implement sound solutions that provide the best care in the most efficient manner.”

NOTE: The hearing agenda and written testimony can be accessed at senatorward.com on the Senate Aging and Youth Committee page.