Howie Groff

The issues facing Medicaid coverage in assisted living are fundamentally economic, not regulatory, according to at least one participant in Tuesday’s roundtable discussion on assisted living held by the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

“Sub-market payment rates, lack of payment for room and board, and restrictive state policies are the root causes of limited options for low-income seniors in many states,” according to Howie Groff, president of Tealwood Care Centers and immediate past chair of the National Center for Assisted Living. “It is imperative for policymakers to consider ways to expand the availability of affordable assisted living and to help states cover the funding gaps that currently exist.”

Speaking on behalf of NCAL, Groff recommended to the roundtable that the Department of Housing and Urban Development create vouchers to cover the room and board portion of assisted living, and that more public financing be made available to build affordable assisted living projects. He also expressed NCAL’s support of continued assisted living regulation at the state level, arguing that state regulations are more easily adaptable to the changing needs of assisted living residents.

Groff also cautioned the group against excluding assisted living facilities from the Medicaid program. Such a move could reduce care options and discriminate against those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, he said.

Nearly 20 provider and consumer advocates, as well as other stakeholders, addressed the gathering. Some called it the broadest group of assisted living experts before the Senate Special Committee on Aging in nearly 10 years.