Michigan — October 16, 2012 at 11:56 am

Keep Home Care a Safe Choice in Michigan – Vote YES! on Proposal 4


Keep following the money, folks

Second in a series on the ballot proposals on Michigan’s November 6, 2012 ballot. Read them all HERE.

Proposal 4 — the Keep Home Care a Safe Choice ballot initiative — is all but a no-brainer for me. It will protect both patients and those who care for them. It goes without saying that our home health care providers are doing yeoman’s work caring for our most vulnerable citizens. These unsung heroes do the hard and indescribably valuable and necessary work to keep patients receiving home care comfortable and able to stay in their own homes. Not only that, they do it for a relative pittance while saving our health care system an enormous amount of money.

Consider this from the AARP:

Rebalancing the state’s system of long-term supports and services saves taxpayers $57,338 per participant and enables Medicaid dollars to support nearly three older citizens for every one person in a nursing home, a national analysis indicates.

“A long-term care system that begins with the individual and helps people stay in their homes and communities can prevent a costly and unnecessary stay in a nursing home,” said Robert Kolt, AARP Michigan President. “A rebalanced system would serve the needs of older Michiganders and their families, while at the same time, making more efficient use of public resources.”

Here are some of the components of Proposal 4:

  • Oversee a registry that links home care recipients with pre-screened home care providers in their area.
  • Require home care providers on the registry to undergo criminal background checks to ensure safety for home care recipients.
  • Give home care providers access to critical job training, so they can better care for seniors and persons with disabilities.
  • Save taxpayer dollars in avoided nursing home costs, since home care is significantly less expensive to taxpayers than nursing homes, according to numerous non-partisan studies.

But, as you would expect, there is opposition to Prop 4 and it’s coming from groups — the Nursing Home industry and their executives — that stand to lose in profits, a natural outcome of a for-profit health care system.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is part of the “Hands Off Our Constitution” coalition which is urging voters to “Vote No on Everything”. Not surprisingly, some of their “leaders” have their hands in the till, too. The Chair of their Health and Human Resources Committee is David Leonard, the General Counsel for Spectrum Health System. Spectrum Health is a service provider to nursing homes.

Another member of the Hands Off Our Constitution coalition is the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. You won’t be surprised to find that several of their members are … wait for it … nursing home groups.

The far-right, conservative political group, The Mackinac Center, is also vigorously opposing Prop 4. Not surprisingly, one of their Board Members, Rodney Lockwood, is the Chairman/CEO of the Lockwood Companies, which “develops, constructs and manages … senior citizen communities”.

The fight by nursing home groups to protect their profits wouldn’t be so troubling if nursing homes were performing at the level that we all would expect them to. Unfortunately, that is not the case. A study by researchers at Michigan State University revealed some shocking facts:

More than one in five elderly nursing home residents in Michigan are neglected – a “very serious problem” that calls for changes in care and policy, according to a new study led by Michigan State University researchers.

The study, appearing in the January issue of the Journal of Elder Abuse and Neglect, also argues the most vulnerable residents are most likely to be neglected – including those with severe physical limitations and behavior problems that may stem from an illness such as dementia, said lead researcher Zhenmei Zhang, assistant professor of sociology.

“These nursing home residents are very dependent on their caregivers for food, water and personal hygiene needs,” Zhang said, “and if they are neglected it can lead to serious consequences such as malnutrition, dehydration, bed sores and even early death.”

The study is one of the first to examine risk factors for elder neglect in nursing homes based on a survey of residents’ family members. It found that about 21 percent of residents were neglected at least once in the past year – a number that very likely is an underestimate because family members aren’t aware of all incidents of neglect, Zhang said.

“This is probably the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

In addition to saving money and protecting both home health care workers and their patients, Proposal 4 will allow seniors and persons with disabilities the choice to direct their own care while remaining healthy and independent in their own homes, instead of forcing them into expensive nursing homes or other institutions. It’s truly a win-win situation.

Opposition to Proposal 4, just like some of the other proposals, is all about protecting profits. Proposal 4 itself, however, is about protecting vulnerable patients and their caregivers. When you contrast those who oppose Prop 4 with those who support it — advocates for senior citizens, disability rights advocates, law enforcement agencies, veterans, the faith community, health & community advocates, and countless thoughtful public officials — the choice is clear: