By Jennifer B. Cona, Esq.
Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Garden City, once again has his eye on the ball regarding the elderly with an effort to push through legislation that would streamline the licensure process for assisted living facilities in New York State.
Easing the assisted living approval process will create more supply on Long Island to meet the demand, resulting in more competition. Increased competition leads to more competitive pricing, which of course, inures to the benefit of the consumer.
Assisted living communities on average cost about half the rate of a skilled nursing facility. But what happens when an individual spends down all their assets at an assisted living center? They have no choice but to go to a nursing home, whether it is medically necessary or not, because Medicaid does not generally pay for assisted living care.
The main exception is the Assisted Living Placement program, which provides a small number of Medicaid-covered beds in certain licensed assisted living facilities. The wait lists are long and unpredictable. Seniors trying to stretch their dollars typically do not have the money or the longevity to remain long on the list.
We need to dramatically expand the number of ALPs on Long Island. Currently, there are 405 ALP beds in Suffolk and 220 in Nassau. Expansion of the ALP program was authorized in the 2009 state budget, and again in 2012, permitting an increase of up to 6,000 ALP beds throughout the state over a five-year period.
That period ends next March and Long Island has yet to realize any apparent gains.
As a community, our goal should be to shift spending from expensive institutional care to community and home-based alternatives. It’s what our seniors want and it’s more affordable for both the elderly and the government.
The New York State Legislature needs to jump on this bandwagon well before the baby-boomers are ready for such living arrangements.
Cona is managing partner of the Melville elder law firm Cona Elder Law.