I’m writing in response to the recent letter by Joe Donchess, executive director of the Louisiana Nursing Home Association who stated his opposition to House Bill 790.

Donchess is only partially correct when he cites an AARP report that shows Louisiana to be an evenly-balanced state of people receiving elderly services under Medicaid. What he fails to mention is that the AARP report refers only to the relative amount of people receiving care. The larger issue here is the lack of service choices older Louisianans have and the overwhelming disparities between high nursing home costs and more affordable home and community-based options.

Tens of thousands of Louisiana citizens remain on waiting lists for home and community-based care due to a scarcity of funds, including 36,000 older Louisianans.

And while most may prefer to stay at home, the funding challenges associated with home and community-based services result in fewer choices and may end up in more expensive nursing homes or institutional care facilities.

AARP believes all Louisianans should have the choice to receive the services they need at home, rather than more expensive options like nursing homes. Nursing homes play an important role as a long-term care option, but many older adults do not require the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week care nursing homes are intended to provide.

The 2014 AARP Louisiana State Scorecard on Long-Term Services shows that the percentage of nursing home residents in Louisiana with low-care needs was 22.8 percent. What this means is that nearly a quarter of nursing home residents are receiving more care than they need at a higher cost to Louisiana taxpayers.

Ultimately, HB790 was not about shifting money from nursing homes to home and community-based care providers, but rather it was about providing a range of options to Louisiana’s older adults and their families so they can safely live at home where they want to be, and doing so with the intention of making the most of taxpayer dollars.

Failure to provide more access to home and community-based care will mean that the waiting lists for people who want to stay at home will continue to grow longer, costs to taxpayers will be higher, and services will become increasingly threatened.

Denise Bottcher

state director, AARP

Baton Rouge