Life on a dollar a day, it's the Medicaid way
JANE was a hard-working person. She started working part time while in high school and worked full time after graduation. Jane married and had a son. Her favorite hobby was traveling, and she can tell you some great stories about her adventures in Africa and Europe.
Jane lives in a Hawaii nursing facility now, and although her memory is fading, she knows that she has two grandchildren. Her son is deceased. After 50 years of working and paying taxes, Jane is now on Medicaid in a nursing facility. She has a variety of medical problems that require 24-hour nursing care. She has no assets and no savings. Jane lives on a dollar a day.
Jane would like to buy birthday presents for her grandchildren, or at least a card, but she cannot. She has to save for her haircuts and clothes. The nursing facility provides shopping trips, but Jane can't afford even to buy a candy bar. Sometimes Jane's family has to buy her some clothes because $30 per month isn't enough.
In 1974 the federal government established the minimum Personal Needs Allowance for a nursing home resident at $25. This means that any resident in a nursing facility on Medicaid receives $25 a month for clothing and haircut needs. In 1988 the federal government raised the minimum to $30.
In 2006 only seven states in the country remained at $30. Forty-three states chose to honor their seniors with a higher quality of life and to give beyond the minimum. Life Care Center of Hilo Senior Executive Director Fred Horwitz and I felt it was time to raise the PNA for Hawaii's long-term care residents. Letters were sent to all state senators and representatives to request support in this endeavor.
State Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland agreed and has drafted a bill for the 2007 legislative session.
Our legislative session begins tomorrow. It will take the support of our entire community to make this bill become law. If you believe in this effort, please inform your senator and representative now. If you are interested in helping to pass this bill, feel free to contact me at 959-9151. Sample testimony letters will be available as soon as the bill is assigned a number.
Chris Ridley is the director of social services at Life Care Center of Hilo. There are more than 240 Life Care Centers in the United States, and four in Hawaii.