Bill Changing CHOICE Program Passes Senate Committee

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February 20, 2014 —

INDIANAPOLIS – A Senate committee passed legislation meant to expand the CHOICE home health care program to focus more on preventative services.

“It’s going to be better to use a small amount of the CHOICE dollars sooner to prevent the need for future services,” said Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany. “Spending a little more on the front end will be saving money on the back end.”

HB 1591 – authored by Clere – would give Area Agencies on Aging more authority to spend money on evaluations and services that could prevent injuries leading to more intensive care. For example, removing a rug off a ceramic floor to ensure no one breaks a hip.

“The current culture supports coming in and doing everything for people” said Joan Cuson, director of Area 2 of the AAA. “This program is very empowering in the fact that we evaluated what people can do.”

Cuson said that AAA agents will evaluate and allow relatively independent patients to do simple tasks – drying dishes, making the bed, getting dressed – to “create independence.”

She said patients in assisted living experience a “loss of purpose” when they are no longer able to complete simple tasks because a nurse or another caregiver does it for them.

HB 1591 also reduces the value of assets that a person can own to be eligible for CHOICE services – excluding homes and vehicles. The amount would shift from the current $500,00 to $250,000.

“I think (this bill) is going backwards in Indiana,” said Becky Smith, the executive director of United Senior Action. “I think asset limits are arbitrary and something. This language is not needed”

She said national studies show “when you put asset limits on public benefit programs it discourages people from saving.”

Smith worried reducing the asset limit would stop parents and grandparents from starting college funds for their children or grandchildren.

Currently, more than 2,600 Hoosiers are on the wait list for the CHOICE program.

“2,600 people on the waiting list is 2,600 too many,” said Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington.

The bill passed the Senate Health and Provider Services Committee 8-1 and will now be recommitted to the Senate Appropriations Committee for further consideration.


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