Long-term care reform hearing focuses on dual eligibles, home-based services

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Public and private sector officials convened Wednesday to discuss the important role long-term care reform could play in a grander, overall healthcare reform scheme.

Representatives from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and other nonprofit, university and private healthcare agencies gave their testimony to the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Many of the panelists discussed the need for increased funding for home- and community-based services. There were also calls for changing the way publicly funded healthcare agencies deal with dual-eligible patients-those who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

Dual eligibles comprise 18% of the Medicaid population-yet consume 42% of its resources, according to the testimony of Melanie Bella, senior vice president at the Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc. They also account for 24% of Medicaid spending, or $250 billion in fiscal year 2008.

Bella argued that integrated care for dual eligibles is "tantamount to a Holy Grail" of long-term care reform, and that "truly integrated care could significantly improve the lives of beneficiaries and reduce the growth in Medicare and Medicaid costs for taxpayers."

Testimonies, transcripts and witness lists from the hearing can be found at http://www.aging.senate.gov.