Pennsylvania focuses on delay issues in Aging Waiver Program
At 66, Steven Cole knew he needed help.
Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and a vein problem in his left leg, he had no option but to turn to the state's Aging Waiver Program — a Medicaid-funded program for those older than 60 who are eligible to live in a nursing home but would rather remain at home.
“I was getting to the point where I could not take care of my own body,” said Cole of Masontown in Fayette County.
He applied for the program in December but received no help until March. Most people wait longer than 50 business days, said Judy Beck, supervisor of the Aging Waiver Program in Allegheny County, the local administrator.
“It was a long period of time to wait it out,” said Cole, who was a pastor for 40 years before retiring in 2010.
In the 2013-14 fiscal year, 32,474 people received help through the program, said Kait Gillis, state Public Welfare Department spokeswoman, almost double the number from 2007-08. In Allegheny County, 25 applications dating to mid-June are pending with the state Welfare Department's Office of Long-Term Living, Beck said.
Reducing the wait is a key goal, Gillis said.
“In recent months, (the office) has deployed additional resources to address any concerns,” she said, including realigning staff and making changes designed to make the system more efficient.
Verifying income eligibility — the program is open to patients with an income of no more than $2,163 a month and assets of less than $8,000 — is a major reason for the lag, Beck said.
“The financial piece does, unfortunately, take a long time,” she said. “It could be a long haul for somebody who really needs the service.”
Now that he has help, Cole has few complaints.
He said home health aides visit his home for 21 hours every week, and a nurse visits twice a week. He works with a physical therapist. The program provided him with a bed, a shower chair, grip bars and a stair chair.
His wife of 41 years, Peggy, 60, cares for him, too.
“The aging program, it's a very good program,” he said. “But in my opinion, their difficulty is dealing with getting things approved.”
In January, Gov. Tom Corbett established the 25-member Pennsylvania Long-Term Care Commission to review the system and seek ways to make it more efficient, effective and cost-conscious.
Commission members have until Dec. 31 to submit recommendations to the governor.
“I think that their ears might be open,” Beck said.
Megan Henney is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7987 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.