Advocates call on Vt. lawmakers to increase money for long-term care

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 6:36 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2023 at 7:29 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Long-term care advocates in Vermont say there is not enough money flowing through facilities to support aging Vermonters.

They say Medicaid reimbursement rates among other issues have left elderly care facilities hurting for cash.

Recently released rate studies from the Department of Vermont Health Access show right now, Vermont reimburses Medicaid providers for about half the cost of the care they provide.

Members of the Vermont Long Term Care Crisis Coalition gathered in the Statehouse in Montpelier on Friday to push legislators to increase the money directed toward long-term care in the FY 2024 budget.

Although the budget contains an 8% increase, the coalition says that number doesn’t come close to the amount of money needed to keep facilities open for aging Vermonters.

Care advocates say the low Medicaid reimbursement rate, severe workforce shortages and chronic underfunding have led many care facilities to shut down, a problem they say won’t get any better without increased funding.

“Forty-seven is what facilities currently received from Medicaid, but the actual cost of providing the care is $86 per day. The long-term care system needs at least $31 million to be invested,” said Ruby Baker, the executive director of the Community of Vermont Elders.

“We didn’t get here in one year. This has been happening over decades. If we’re going to be able to support an aging population that’s going to need access to the services, we’re going to have to really start thinking about how we fund these agencies and not just continuing to underfund them and then be surprised when they close,” said Rep. Daniel Noyes, D-Wolcott.

This isn’t the first time advocates have gathered at the Statehouse to ask the Legislature to increase the budgets for their cause. We’ve covered requests for more SNAP benefits, rental assistance and aid for low-income families. But it’s unlikely all these requests will be granted. I spoke previously with Sen. Jane Kitchel, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. She said despite the need, it just isn’t possible for the state to dole out these large amounts of cash, especially as lawmakers grapple with trying to find a way to unwind many programs and benefits put in place during the pandemic now that American Rescue Plan money has run out.