KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

As Calif. Budget Shrinks, Services For Elderly Slip

"Advocates for the elderly in California say recent budget cuts are dramatically affecting the ability of social service programs to keep up with demand" at a time when "the state's elderly population - and the incidents of elder abuse - are exploding," NPR reports. One example is Contra Costa County, where the Aging and Adult Services Program laid off two-thirds of the staff who "investigate abuse complaints of elderly and dependent adults." The county is now "turning over virtually all of its self-neglect cases to some other agency - often, the police." The Contra Costa situation is "so severe that the county grand jury recently concluded that Adult Protective Services no longer has the resources to carry out its legal mandate to investigate physical and financial abuse complaints." This comes at a time when complaints of elder abuse are on the rise. According to "national studies," only "1 in 5 elder abuse cases is reported" (Siler, 6/3).

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell is "proposing to allow an additional 30,000 seniors to enroll in the state's prescription-drug program for older residents, a move called essential to helping them survive the difficult economic times," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Rendell says he is "working with House Democrats to push through legislation that would raise the current income eligibility limits for seniors to qualify for the state's popular PACENET program." He says the expansion should be "'a slam-dunk' since it won't cost taxpayers a dime." The money for the program, which is "funded by the Pennsylvania lottery" would be augmented by "requiring pharmaceutical companies to give the state the same drug rebates that it gives to the federal government's Medicaid program."

If approved, Rendell's proposal would expand the program, "which now covers about 220,000 people 65 and older" and would increase payments to pharmacies filling PACENET prescriptions. The "state chapter of AARP lauded the idea," but House Majority Leader Sam Smith "said yesterday that he is skeptical of the notion that the program could be expanded so greatly without the state paying more" (Couloumbis and Cattabiani, 6/3).

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