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Long-term care scorecard shows winner is Family Care

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Helen Marks Dicks & Lisa Pugh
October 11, 2011

In Wisconsin, fall brings a tradition of both football and winning. In fact, it is no secret that we Cheeseheads are leaders in many areas—including how we care for our loved ones.


AARP recently released a groundbreaking national scorecard that gives Wisconsin high marks for the long-term supports we provide to older adults and people with disabilities. Other states are literally told to take a page from our playbook.


The scorecard shows that Wisconsin, which ranked 5th, significantly out-performed others in providing long-term supports that are affordable, offer consumers choice, and improve quality of life and overall care. The data across 25 indicators demonstrates that by investing in community-based supports, Wisconsin has been able to keep people where they want to be—living independently in their homes.


Aging and disability advocates point to the secret of our state’s success—our long-term care system, known as Family Care.


Family Care is specifically designed to provide alternatives to expensive nursing home and institutional placement while giving individuals and their families choice about what most effectively supports their individual needs. Participants get the “just-right” help they need, such as assistance with personal care, home health care, transportation, nutrition services, and other supports.


The win-win is that Family Care not only keeps people in their homes and communities, but it saves tens of thousands of dollars per person by keeping people out of costly institutional care.


But right now, Wisconsin is experiencing a timeout.


Although Family Care is available in 57 Wisconsin counties, expansion to the remaining 15 is on hold. The state has decided there will be no new enrollees in any county, except in rare circumstances. People with long-term care needs and their families are waiting on the sidelines for what happens next.


This summer, Gov. Scott Walker and, more recently, Department of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith both stated publicly they are reviewing the program and looking at the most cost-effective way to deliver quality services. They have hinted they want to lift the hold on Family Care by the end of the year.


The time is now. There is too much at stake in this game. We all need to get off the bench.


It is easy to predict what will happen if we don’t. Wisconsin’s Scorecard indicators demonstrating the percent of tax dollars going toward less-expensive home and community services will decrease, while the percentage of nursing home residents with low-care needs—needs which could be met in the community—will rise.


Perhaps more disturbing, Wisconsin’s quality of care ranking—a score showing that adults with disabilities are getting what they need and are satisfied with their lives—and the data showing hard-working caregivers have needed supports in place will nosedive.


We cannot afford these losses. Wisconsin should be proud of its current national ranking.


Lifting the hold on Family Care is good public policy and the right thing to do.


Helen Marks Dicks is associate director for Advocacy-State Issues, AARP Wisconsin, 222 W. Washington Ave., Suite 600, Madison, WI 53703; phone (608) 286-6337; email hmdicks@aarp.org. Lisa Pugh is public policy coordinator of Disability Rights Wisconsin, 131 W. Wilson St., Suite 700, Madison, WI 53703; phone (608) 267-0214; email lisa.pugh@drwi.org.

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