News & Politics

'Like Walking the Plank' - Newsom Budget Cuts Could Send More Seniors Into NURSING HOMES?!

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

After finally getting a look at some of the updated numbers on nursing home deaths in California, it’s hard to believe that Governor Gavin Newsom is suggesting that even more people be sent to live there. But Newsom’s new post-COVID budget plan scraps two programs used by indigent seniors that keep them out of expensive nursing homes. One woman says it’s like the state’s making these old people “walk the plank.”

As I reported, The San Jose Mercury News reports that 41% of all deaths from COVID-19 in the State of California were people from nursing homes. They either worked there or lived there. The governor finally acknowledged that at a minimum 33% of the people who have died in California were linked to nursing homes.

But after state officials are finally beginning to come clean on the COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes, the politically tin-eared Gavin Newsom wants to send more seniors there.

It’s all about money.

Seniors who go into nursing facilities approved by federal programs get more Medi-Cal funds than the state program that sends seniors living alone to daycare centers where they receive services such as physical therapy.

The Palm Springs Desert Sun reports that proposed cutbacks in the budget may target two important programs that are currently keeping seniors out of nursing homes.

One program pays advocates to come to seniors’ homes and make sure they’ve got what they need from food to transportation to doctor’s visits. Another program brings seniors to care centers for physical therapy, food, and socialization. Both could be cut if the legislature approves Newsom’s budget.

Cuts could start as early as July.

These programs, paid for by Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, are considered by the federal government to be optional. In contrast, Medi-Cal must pay for nursing home care for those who qualify for it; those benefits can’t be cut to trim the state budget.

Together, the two senior health programs serve nearly 46,000 of California’s poorest and most medically frail seniors in their homes or at one of 260 adult day health centers around the state.

It’s unusual for Democrats to talk about budget cuts, but these program cuts seem particularly odious considering that most of the state’s deaths from coronavirus have been linked back to nursing homes. People are fighting to stay out of them, not get into them.

“You might as well have them walk the plank,” said Barbara Porter, site director for the Multipurpose Senior Services Program in Contra Costa county, which serves 160 seniors…

Porter and other local program staffers say they were blindsided by the proposed budget cuts from a governor who last year called for a new state “master plan for aging” by this October. Porter said the MSSP program costs no more than $5,000 per client per year, compared to the roughly $40,600 per year that Medi-Cal would pay for a typical patient to live in a skilled nursing facility, though costs can be significantly higher.

As I reported on PJMedia, the story about California’s nursing home deaths is just now becoming more clear. Newsom’s current programs are forcing some nursing homes to take COVID-19 patients. Now this.

The organizations that run the programs for independent seniors say they’ve been on the chopping block before and may have to sue to keep them funded and operating.

One woman told the Desert Sun that the “last thing I want to do is be in a nursing home, especially with the virus.” You can’t blame her.

KTLA reports that “Newsom’s plan to cover that deficit includes painful cuts across most government programs, including public education, environmental protections and state worker salaries. But the cuts targeting programs for older adults have alarmed advocates who have likened them to ‘a death sentence.'”

Of course, Newsom is hoping that the Trump Administration saves him from having to make such painful cuts. Just weeks ago, Newsom was bragging about having plenty of money to spend due to a bustling Trump economy and California’s confiscatory global warming tax.

Usually when people talk about budget cuts, the public hand-wringing and hyperbole get ridiculous, in this case, “walking the plank” to a “death sentence” might actually be accurate.

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