John Grant: Ailing Home Health Care System Needs Resuscitation

Florida is home to the Fountain of Youth; so, maybe that’s why the growth of the state’s aging population is booming.

By 2030, people 65 and older will account for 57 percent of the population in Florida. While folks are living longer, many will likely need medical care as they grow older. Some may eventually need around-the-clock aid. So how prepared is the state to handle this medical emergency?

According to a new study, 90 percent of Americans want to age at home rather than in a long-term care facility, like a nursing home. Makes sense, right? Most people want to be where they’re comfortable; surrounded by memories and personal belongings.

But the current home health care system is already struggling to cover costs and to hire and retain reliable workers. The average home health care aide makes around $11.61 an hour. In Florida, there is no state law requiring these workers to be licensed. The only requirement is to complete 75-hours of training.

As a practicing lawyer in the Tampa area since 1968, I can assure you without regulations in place, the elderly population can become an easy target for abuse and fraud. I have seen it firsthand. When Gov. Jeb Bush appointed me the executive director of the Office of Statewide Public Guardianship, I routinely witnessed people, whether they be family, friends or even strangers, try to dupe seniors out of their homes and life savings. With an underfunded and understaffed home health care system, you can imagine the potential for problems.

Home health care costs are covered by both private and public means. Seniors on a fixed income tend to rely on Medicaid and most are enrolled in the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care program. Home health care falls under the program’s long-term services. Adults can apply and if they qualify, receive medical care within their own home.

The only problem is, according to recent state medical reports, the waiting list has more than 59,000 Florida residents looking for help. Those seniors deserve our help. In 2030, there will be one in five Americans 65 and older and we could be facing a major crisis. That’s why we need to start talking about this issue now.

As a former state representative and state senator, I worked with Republicans and Democrats to address issues affecting seniors, just like this one. I recently created Seniors Across America, a non-partisan and non-profit organization, advocating for older Americans in Congress and in the various state legislatures across the country. I am not a proponent of more government regulation than necessary. However, I do think state lawmakers should dig into home health care, determine the challenges navigating the system, and formulate a plan to make it affordable, efficient, and safer for seniors.

There are 54-million Americans currently over the age of 65, and yes, I’m one of them. We’re living longer and hopefully, happier lives. Some of us are retired, others are working because they want to and still others have to work a little longer than expected for financial reasons. But all of us will want to be treated with compassion and grace in our twilight years. Let’s talk about how

John Grant, a former state representative and state senator, an estate planning attorney, and a member of the National Senior Citizen Hall of Fame, has spent much of his career working on behalf of seniors. John is continuing the advocacy work by heading a new venture called Seniors Across America to continue speaking up for our elderly population.

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