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Governor adds funds to help elderly remain in their homes

Elderly Georgians received some good news from Gov. Brian Kemp in the form of increased appropriations for citizens who want to remain in their homes rather than moving into a nursing home or other institution. According to preliminary estimates, the funding could allow an additional 1,000 Georgians to remain in their homes.

The news arrived in the governor's budget for fiscal year 2020, which proposes appropriating an additional $1.8 million for home and community-based services for the elderly. The aid would be provided as part of the state-sponsored portion of Medicaid. An estimated 7,000 Georgians are on the waiting list for waivers of state limits on Medicaid in order to receive financial support for home care, such as help with bathing, dressing, meals, housekeeping, home health services and respites for caregivers. The ordinary income limits for Medicaid are raised if a person is granted a home health-care waiver.

The measure has been hailed by advocates for elderly citizens and leaders of community-based organizations as a measure that will save significant amounts of taxpayer dollars and also provide elderly citizens with the kind of care they prefer. Home and community-based care costs about 1/10 the cost of private nursing home care. In fiscal year 2017, about 34,000 Georgians received subsidies for home health-care services. Each of Georgia's 159 counties has people on the waiting list for a Medicaid waiver.

The governor's proposed budget is a long way from approval, and the fate of his health care proposal cannot be safely predicted. Nevertheless, the bill has wide support, and its chances of passing appear to be good.

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