Senators kill health care study

ELDERLY CARE — Louisiana's state senators killed legislation at their current session aimed at updating a study on home care for elderly Americans, which the Louisiana Nursing Home Association opposed.

You know the Louisiana nursing home industry has major political stroke at the state Legislature when lawmakers refuse to do a study on whether home care is better than institutional care for elderly citizens.

State Sen. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, tried twice to set up a study and he lost both times. His Senate Resolution 23 would have established a task force to study the desirability and feasibility of implementing a Medicaid-managed, longterm support and home care service system in Louisiana and to recommend how it could take place.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted 7-1 on May 5 to reject Talbot’s resolution. So, showing some ingenuity, Talbot came back with SR 95 requesting the state Department of Insurance to create a task force to study best practices for the coverage of long-term home care support and services.

Talbot happens to be chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee that would hear his new resolution and it was sent to the full Senate without objection. The Louisiana Nursing Home Association opposed both resolutions.

Looking at other states, Talbot said, would give Louisiana researchers more information to consider. If staying at home is as costly as the nursing association makes out, he said, the fact that more states are adopting the program made it worth studying again.

Talbot during Senate debate said since a study seven years ago the number of states going to managed home care had gone from 13 to 28. He said the state’s experience with COVID-19 would also make the study worthwhile.

Mark Berger, the nursing home association’s executive director, said some of those states Talbot mentioned are trying to get out of the programs because they are too costly. He said the issue has been studied repeatedly in the past and asked, “How many times do you study a bad idea?”

State Sen. Stewart Cathey, R-Monroe, had a quick reply: “We study all kinds of crazy things, and this isn’t crazy.”

Talbot added that only a couple of states have changed their minds, and Louisiana’s seniors deserved another look at the issue.

The full Senate disagreed. Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, who represents parts of Allen Parish, was among the 13 senators who voted for the resolution. Republican Sens. Mark Abraham of Lake Charles, Ronnie Johns of Sulphur and Mike Reese of Leesville voted with 21 other senators who were against the resolution.

Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, spoke against Talbot’s resolution. He said it got a fair hearing in the health committee and the previous study of home health care cost $2 million. Luneau called another study a complete waste of time, effort and money.

Talbot indicated he wasn’t sure about the cost of the previous study, but he thought the cost was absorbed by the state Department of Health.

Whatever its cost, the study that took place seven years ago was no help last year when I had to confront the issue of long-term care for my late wife. On the advice of my cardiologist, I chose assisted living because he said caring for her was affecting my health.

Because of her memory problems, that was probably the wrong choice. A bad fall at the facility eventually led to her death over two months later. She wore a pendant that would call for help, but she couldn’t remember its purpose and tried to walk somewhere on her own and fell.

From then on, it was nursing home care, a number of trips and stays at the hospital, hospice care and then nursing home care again. The care at all three places was OK, but visitation was extremely difficult everywhere but at the hospice because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Should I have tried home health care? Would that have prevented my wife’s fall? Perhaps, and it’s a question that still bothers me to this day.

It’s been seven years since that last study. What are home health care costs today versus nursing home or assisted living care? I learned from my personal experience with longterm care insurance that people who purchase the expensive coverage had better read all the fine print.

Maybe they did, but I don’t remember anyone telling me over 20 years ago when we bought long-term care policies that I would have to pay all of the costs for the first 100 days in a long-term care facility.

The elderly in this state deserve every consideration we can give them, and another long-term care study tops the list.

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