I started working in nursing homes and came to assisted living care because my oldest son is disabled and I wanted to help build options for his care long after I’m no longer here to fight for him. For the first time in his life, I’m afraid for his future. We seem to be losing the will to make sure the most vulnerable among us receive the services they need.
I am shocked about the proposed Medicaid cuts that will make it more difficult for elderly and disabled Montanans to get the assisted living services they need. These services are for people who can no longer stay at home but don’t need to be in a nursing home. Offering assisted living as part of Medicaid is the right thing for our elders and saves the state money. Why are we cutting services that save money?
There is time to fix this and I’m hoping everyone involved will put their heads together to find a better solution to our budget woes. I don’t know how we got from overwhelmingly passing House Bill 17 that provided for more services and access for people to stay at home or in assisted living to where we are now — with the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services proposing to cut these services by almost 3.5 percent! A big factor in passing HB 17 was to help people with Alzheimer’s and their families get the care and help they need — now what?
Our elders fought for our rights, built our roads, farmed for years feeding us, and have spent their savings on their health care costs as they’ve gotten older. Now they seek our help to get needed care and live out their lives with dignity. Even those of us who are younger are one car accident, heart attack, stroke or life-changing illness away from spending the rest of our lives needing care. Rather than tearing it down, we need to invest in our health care system to be sure it’s there when we need it.
There has to be a better way to balance the budget and make any needed cuts in a more reasonable, fair way. People who need help shouldn’t have to pick up a newspaper and read that money is being “found” for pay hikes for state workers while their access to services is being cut.
Let the governor and your legislators know they should re-think the Medicaid cuts. We can — and should — do better.
Michael Coe is an administrator at The Pines Assisted Living in Polson.