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Ohio Department of Aging Aging Connection - January 2010

January 2010

Expansion of Home First Eligibility
Allowing More Older Ohioans to Receive Supports in their Communities

Recently introduced state legislation would increase the number of cost-effective, long-term care options available to older Ohioans by expanding Home First eligibility. The current Home First option, which the legislature passed in 2005, allows individuals in nursing homes to bypass waiting lists for the PASSPORT and Assisted Living Medicaid waiver programs and receive supports immediately.

We believe the current Home First option has been a "win-win" for seniors and the state; older Ohioans want to receive supports in the community for as long as possible and this preferred setting is about one-third of the cost of nursing home care. Since the new state budget became effective in July and we had to limit enrollment into our long-term care programs because of the economic situation, more than 800 Ohioans have been able to access PASSPORT or Assisted Living through the Home First option.

This new legislation would expand Home First eligibility to individuals who are determined to be at-risk of imminent admission to a nursing home. In such instances, these individuals would be able to bypass waiting lists for PASSPORT or Assisted Living and immediately receive these supports, allowing them to remain living in their communities at a lower cost. The expansion of Home First would be managed within the state's existing resources for the current budget period.

In the legislation, the "at-risk of imminent admission" criteria will specifically target individuals who would otherwise need to enter a nursing home. Area agencies on aging and other community advocates, such as Adult Protective Services and physicians, will work together to decide if an individual meets the criteria and determine the appropriate level of care needed.

It's important to note that nursing homes play an integral part in the long-term care system and always will. Some Ohioans' needs can be met only by a nursing home offering quality care.

Governor Strickland demonstrated his commitment to seniors by establishing a Unified Long-term Care Budget workgroup more than two years ago. This workgroup, now called the Unified Long-term Care System workgroup, is led by the Ohio Department of Aging. The group continues to examine how we can re-engineer our current long-term care system to increase choices in setting and services. As we continue to manage the financial effects of the worst economy in decades, the Ohio Department of Aging and Governor Strickland remains dedicated to helping our seniors live independent and healthy lives.