Gov. Steve Beshear's budget targets the Department for Aging and Independent Living for another round of cuts — by 6.4 percent.
But, instead of cutting services helping thousands of older and disabled citizens live independently in their own homes — and not nursing homes— it's time to cut waiting lists for those services.
For many years, home and community-based services that save taxpayer dollars have been underfunded and repeatedly cut. Since 2007, the Department for Aging and Independent Living budget has been cut by $6.9 million. Kentucky needs a better balance between nursing home care and community based services. Our waiting list for community-based services is too long.
It's no surprise that waiting lists are growing in Kentucky's aging population. Today, 13.3 percent of the state's total population is over 65.
But, what should be surprising is that 19,000 Kentuckians are on waiting lists for services from the Department of Aging and Independent Living, including 9,000 waiting for daily meals and 3,200 waiting for homemaker services, because they are unable to provide these for themselves.
AARP Kentucky and its citizen supporters are working to change this in the 2012 General Assembly. It's estimated that $50 million is needed over the next two years to cut waiting lists for 19,000 Kentuckians waiting for services.
These vital and cost-effective services help Kentuckians live independently, stay in their own homes longer and out of nursing homes paid for by Medicaid.
In 2010, 69 percent of AARP Kentucky members surveyed said staying in their own homes for as long as possible is their top priority.
It costs many times less to deliver home and community-based services. The average nursing-home cost per year is $67,000, compared to an average of $10,000 for in-home support services.
AARP knows that, in the long-run, increasing the state's capacity for affordable home- and community-based services increases consumers' choices, improves quality of life for aging citizens and saves taxpayer dollars.
Experience in other states has proven that in-home services and supports are far more cost-effective than institutional care in skilled-care facilities, and decrease the state's Medicaid costs.
Lawmakers in Frankfort can cut these waiting lists this year and deliver needed services while saving millions of taxpayer dollars. Lawmakers need to know that senior meals and basic in-home services are a priority and not bargaining chips in the budget fight.
If you are a taxpayer, AARP urges you to let your state lawmakers know that it's time to meet the needs of 19,000 Kentuckians waiting today — and for future generations.
Call your legislators and ask them to fund services and meals for the aging and disabled to "end the wait" in the next state budget.