nurse holding hand of older adult male
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A New York Department of Health work group recently began meeting to make recommendations on coordinating hospice care for residents living in the state’s Medicaid-funded assisted living program.

The work group developed from legislation passed in March authorizing residents of Medicaid-eligible assisted living programs to access hospice services. The law directed the health department to convene a working group to make recommendations on coordinating services, responsibilities and reimbursement.

The working group — which include representatives from assisted living, hospice and government — met March 14 and plans to meet again in May.

Prior to passage of the legislation, hospice care was provided in home-based and institutional settings. But the process became “unduly complicated” for residents living in adult care facilities and enrolled in the NYS Medicaid assisted living program, according to Sen. Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx), who sponsored the bill, known as S7626.

The Empire State previously required assisted living-enrolled residents who chose hospice care to disenroll from the state program, meaning the loss of home care services they still needed. The state’s position was that the hospice and services provided through the assisted living program were duplicative.

The Empire State Association of Assisted Living is part of the work group that will identify and specify the responsibilities of the assisted living program and of hospice, while ensuring effective communication between the two groups, ESAAL Executive Director Lisa Newcomb told McKnight’s Senior Living. 

“Over the years, ESAAL has been part of a coalition of assisted living and hospice associations working to educate government stakeholders about the state’s Medicaid-funded assisted living program and an unnecessary and flawed position that the NYS Department of Health had taken that created a formidable barrier to ALP residents’ access to hospice,” Newcomb said. “Earlier this month, I participated in the work group’s first meeting, and we are hopeful that we are well on our way to smashing this barrier so that residents receiving Medicaid can access the end-of-life care that they so deserve.”

A conservative estimate suggested that allowing assisted living residents to access hospice services would save the state Medicaid program $13 million annually by avoiding costly hospitalizations and nursing homes stays, Rivera stated in a memo on the bill.