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Is Low Medicaid Rate Affecting Elderly Care?

Concerned with the intention of old Texans are being deprived of sufficient care by nursing homes and home-health agencies for the reason that of low Medicaid reimbursement rates, state Rep. Garnet Coleman is setting up a succession of town hall meetings to scrutinize the subject.

Coleman, who chairs the Legislative Study Group, said the first meeting will be Oct. 24 in Houston's City Hall annex. The study group is a legislative caucus that focuses on Texas families.

"The important part is that we understand what the problems are," said Coleman, D-Houston. "Then we make recommendations, and legislation will be filed from that."

He said he hope the town hall meetings will illustrate families whose relatives take delivery of home-health and nursing-home care as well as employees and administrators from the amenities and agencies that make available the care.

Coleman said he has received phone calls saying family members are receiving not enough care. He believes the difficulty may possibly be the consequence of low Medicaid reimbursements.

Medicaid is a blend of federal and state dollars; reimbursement rates are set by the state.

The Rev. Emanuel Barnes, owner of Barnes Home Health, said agencies like his are reimbursed $8.36 an hour to send an aide into elderly people's homes to bathe, dress and care for them. Because the agencies have to pay withholding taxes and other costs, he said, the workers end up receiving little more than minimum wage.

Dianne Long, director of public policy and advocacy for Houston's Care for Elders, said Texas ranks 51st -- below all other states and the District of Columbia -- in median pay for home-care aides. Statewide, the median pay is $6.11 an hour, she said. Houston is only slightly higher at $6.36 an hour.

"If we don't get the pay rate up, we are not going to get good quality care," Long said.



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