The Bulletin Board

Even with a $3.7 million cut, advocates support ‘healthy aging’ bill

By: - March 17, 2023 1:35 pm

As the state grows older, lawmakers are considering legislation that would increase services and assistance for older Granite Staters. (Screenshot, state Commission on Aging’s 2018 annual report)

The state Senate on Thursday passed a significantly scaled back version of a bill that would increase funding and assistance for Granite Staters over age 60 and those who have disabilities and are eligible for Medicaid.

The amended version of Senate Bill 36 would put just over $1.7 million into developing and coordinating a system of care for healthy aging. 

The bill’s group of bipartisan sponsors emphasized the need to coordinate the state’s existing but scattered resources, and to enhance services and payments to providers as the second oldest state in the country grows older. The goal is to allow eligible Granite Staters who want to remain at home or in their community rather than go to a nursing facility to do so.

The legislation, which heads next to the Senate Finance Committee, would require the Department of Health and Human Services to study Medicaid rates for in-home services covered by the Choices for Independence program. Providers have said those rates don’t begin to cover the costs of care. 

It also directs the department to request federal approval to more quickly approve applications for services. The department would also have to create an online portal for those working with older people and those with disabilities to identify services.

The largest initiative would spend $1.2 million to establish a “person-centered counseling program” to help people complete Medicaid applications and get referrals for community-based services and housing.

The original bill called for just over $5.4 million for those investments and others, such as creating a state ombudsman to investigate complaints and resolve disputes for people living at home or in the community. Currently the state has an ombudsman for those living in long-term care facilities.

Organizations that work with aging populations had strongly supported the original bill but said they remain supportive of the amended version.

“As passed, SB 36 will help transform our current system of care to ensure that Granite Staters have a meaningful choice in options for receiving long-term care services and supports as they age,” said Heather Carroll, director of advocacy, NH Alliance for Healthy Aging. “We hope that the Senate Finance Committee agrees with their colleagues on the need to prioritize and fund this system to better support older adults and their families.”

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. Email: [email protected]