As Colorado ages, reliable funding for AAAs a must - Colorado Politics
Opinion

As Colorado ages, reliable funding for AAAs a must

Author: - March 20, 2015 - Updated: March 20, 2015

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Colorado is growing older. One in four Coloradans will be over the age of 60 by the year 2035. That is only 20 years from now. The aging of the Baby Boomers and the Millennials, combined with advances in science and health care, will allow us to live longer, more fulfilled lives. This unprecedented demographic shift causes several challenges for Colorado. As leaders, we must make preparations to ensure our older residents thrive. We must plan and invest wisely. Our seniors deserve nothing less.

In Colorado, the Older Coloradans Act provides funding for a variety of community based services. The moneys are allocated by the Department of Human Services to each of the state’s 16

Area Agencies on Aging (AAA’s). The AAA’s contract with local organizations, including non-profits, to administer services. These services include, but are not limited to, home delivered meals (Meals on Wheels), transportation, homemaker assistance and personal care assistance.

This is boots-on-the-ground for our moms, dads and grandparents. It keeps our seniors living independently and productively. It helps them stay in their homes. It keeps institutional care at bay. And, the immense cost to taxpayers is kept at bay as well. Not only is it the right thing to do from a compassionate point of view, it is the fiscally responsible thing to do.

Funding for the AAA’s, however, is like a Forrest Gump box of chocolates. They never know what they’re going to get. They have to advocate every year to maintain and occasionally increase their funding. All the while the fast growing population is creating increased demand for services and often longer waiting lists. And, the uncertainty of funding makes it difficult for AAA’s and the local service providers they fund, to plan and budget for the services that seniors need to stay in their homes. In good budget years, they may see an increase in funding. In the recession years, funding has remained flat and even decreased while demand continues to grow.

That is why House Bill 15-1100 is such an important piece of the puzzle. This bill is a common sense approach to help our AAA’s help our seniors. HB 1100 is a bipartisan bill which reduces the general fund by $4 million dollars and transfers that amount to the Older Coloradans Cash Fund. Our seniors can count on it, and our AAA’s will be able to make a responsible three year budget. HB 1100 is going to help us keep Medicaid costs down, saving our state millions of dollars.

HB 1100 will also save money in other areas of the budget. We have all heard the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Numerous state and federal studies have demonstrated the cost effectiveness of services provided to people living in their homes. Services provided in facilities, such as hospitals, assisted living and nursing homes are much more expensive. Let us be clear, the care provided by those facilities are important components of the continuum of care available for older adults. But, these Medicaid funded long-term care options are some of the most expensive programs funded by the state. The state’s Medicaid budget is projected to double over the next decade. Long-term care is a key reason why Medicaid spending is projected to significantly increase our state budget and occupy a bigger slice of the General Fund.

HB 1100 is going to help us keep Medicaid costs down, saving our state millions of dollars. Older adults consistently report a preference to grow older in their homes, staying in their communities. This bill recognizes our responsibility to place senior services as a priority. Our seniors need our support and deserve nothing less.

Rep. Steve Lebsock, D-Thornton, proudly represents the people of House District 34. Steve Grund is a marketing, media and public relations strategist who has worked for the Seniors’ Resource Center in Denver.

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