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5/1/2018 Senate OKs Goodwin’s long-term care bills
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin to authorize the state to seek Medicaid waivers or state-plan amendments to support services to family caregivers.

The bill is meant to provide support, education and services to family caregivers, who are a critical but generally under-supported component of care for the elderly and disabled population.

Family members, partners and close friends provide the vast majority of long-term services and support in Rhode Island. An estimated 148,000 Rhode Islanders are providing care at any one time to family members or other people. In 2009, the estimated value of their unpaid contributions was $1.8 billion.

“The care and assistance of family members and friends enables so many disabled or elderly people to remain in the community instead of in an institution. The value of family caregivers’ contributions, not only to the lives of the people they are helping but also to our health care system, cannot be overstated. Supporting them and better enabling them to provide for their loved ones is an investment that will help us reach our state’s goals of helping more residents live in the communities they love for as long as possible,” said Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence).

The bill (2018-S 2553aa), which is one of several Senator Goodwin is sponsoring this year to improve supports and choice for long-term care, would authorize the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to apply for Medicaid waivers or state-plan amendments that would allow it to use Medicaid dollars for programs that support family caregivers. That support could be in form of education, community-based supportive services or respite care, which can provide care when caregivers can’t be there or need a break.

Family or other caregivers who provide the majority of care in the home are frequently under substantial physical, psychological and financial stress. The stress may lead to premature or unnecessary nursing home and institutional placement and health and financial burdens for the caregiver. Respite care and other community-based supportive services for the family caregiver can relive some of the stresses faced by caregivers, maintain and strengthen the family structure, postpone or prevent institutionalization and lead to better outcomes for both the caregiver and care recipient. The bill aims to provide them with counseling, education and support services.

The bill also requires the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to track and report data on the number of caregiver assessments it conducts, the identified needs of caregivers (both met and unmet), and referrals made for education, respite and other support services. The information shall be provided to lawmakers as part of annual budget hearings and to the long-term care coordinating council, as well as posted online.

The Senate today also passed another bill (2018-S 2552) sponsored by Senator Goodwin to establish a public scorecard system to show how long-term care reform is meeting its goals of rebalancing the way services are delivered and how funding is spent on various service types.

Under the bill, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services would develop and make public on its website a long-term services and supports performance scorecard that includes several measures, including progress toward the state’s goal of spending half its Medicaid dollars on home- and community-based services and half on nursing facilities.

Both bills will now be forwarded to the House of Representatives, where Rep. Julie A. Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) is sponsoring legislation (2018-H 7491) similar to the first bill and Rep. Joseph M. McNamara is sponsoring companion legislation (2018-H 7481) to the second. 

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923