Last month, California entered another two-year legislative cycle, with almost 40 new lawmakers arriving in Sacramento ready to tackle pressing issues facing our state. As the state’s population over the age of 65 continues to grow, the beginning of a new legislative session is a timely reminder of the need to transform our long-term services and supports system.
Developing a vision and strategy for the transformation of our system of long-term services and supports (LTSS) is imperative to better meet the current and future needs of older adults. Since 1961, the White House has held a Conference on Aging every decade to elevate issues facing older Americans and generate policy ideas to help improve the aging experience.
The time to improve California’s long-term services and supports system (LTSS) is now. The state has a growing aging population, opportunities for innovation have emerged through the Affordable Care Act, California’s Senate Select Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care will soon make its recommendations to the legislature, and finally, the state is digging out of years of recession.
As a physician, I’ve witnessed firsthand the plight of so many families whose lives are thrown into turmoil as an older parent or grandparent takes a fall, suffers an injury and experiences a sudden health decline. Without warning, families find themselves at the epicenter of a fragmented long-term care system: struggling to get the right care and services for their loved one, trying to figure out how to pay, juggling caregiving duties with work obligations and all the while wondering how this could have been prevented.
Sadly for most vulnerable older Californians, their first interaction with long-term services and supports (LTSS) begins in the emergency room. A recent report from California’s Medicaid Research Institute (CAMRI) shows that this perspective is particularly true for individuals covered by Medicare and Medi-Cal. Most people who used Medi-Cal-funded LTSS started these services after an emergency room visit, hospital admission, or rehabilitation stay. Older adults entering these institutions may experience additional health complications, be discharged with less function than when they entered, and find their support system at home less prepared to meet their needs.