Shrinking Kansas government continues to come at the expense of the state’s most vulnerable residents.
To preserve his costly and unfair tax cuts, Gov. Sam Brownback recently sliced $2.1 million in funding for the Kansas Senior Care Act. That will lead to a 30 percent reduction of in-home services for senior citizens in the state.
The act has been a lifesaver, enabling older people to live independently, confidently and securely with the help of home-care workers, who assist them a few hours a week with such things as shopping, laundry and cleaning.
The state’s 11 Area Agencies on Aging administer the program, wisely enacted by the Kansas Legislature in 1989. Agency officials are right to worry about the future. Letters this month went to more than 1,300 seniors who might be negatively affected.
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Dan Goodman, director of the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging, said new clients will feel the effects first. The Johnson County agency will suffer cuts of $296,114, or 38 percent.
It’s more than expected because the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services wants to protect the $200,000 base for rural area agencies on aging, where older clients have fewer service alternatives.
The decision isn’t equitable and negatively affects older people in Johnson, Wyandotte, Shawnee and Sedgwick counties.
In Johnson County, a waiting list for services has been developed, and already 33 people are on it. The Johnson County Area on Aging serves about 500 senior citizens a year.
The funding loss is the result of the 2012 tax cuts implemented by Brownback and the conservative Republican-controlled Legislature. State residents — from schoolchildren to seniors — are the ones feeling the pain from that reduction in funds for public services.
Seniors share in the cost of the in-home service now under attack, paying on a sliding scale based on their income. The program gives them independence and a quality of life that they otherwise might not be able to afford.
The alternative for many older people is to go into nursing homes funded by Medicaid, the health insurance for the poor and disabled. The average cost per person in a nursing home in Johnson County is about $4,000 to $6,000 compared with the state’s monthly in-home service cost of $200 per person.
Any shift to nursing home care also would be occurring as demand for long-term care in the U.S. is increasing as the nation’s population ages, exceeding the supply of available services.
“It really doesn’t make good fiscal sense,” Goodman said.
He’s right. More meetings are scheduled to determine how much the cuts will affect seniors.
Meanwhile, the state’s older residents can only wait and worry about the uncertain future the governor and Legislature have created.