Delaware should fund Meals On Wheels

January 11, 2013

An exhaustive national study by Brown University concluded states could avoid costly and unnecessary nursing home care simply by doing one thing: investing in Meals On Wheels.

The study analyzed data on more than 16,000 nursing homes between 2000 and 2009. After taking into account state spending on Medicaid-sponsored home and community-based services and other long-term care market factors, the researchers found Meals On Wheels was the only statistically significant factor in keeping seniors out of nursing homes.

In Delaware, the average cost of a nursing home is approximately $80,000 annually. A significant portion of that cost is picked up by the state as most nursing home residents receive funding through Medicaid. Because nursing home care is so expensive, states have been attempting to “re-balance” their long-term care expenditures to fund programs that keep people in their homes as they age. But the re-balancing effort has been painfully slow in Delaware.

Today, Delaware spends 87.5 percent of all long term care dollars on institutional care. The national average is 66 percent.

For the past 10 years as Meals On Wheels demand has increased, state funding for the program has not kept pace. Instead, the state has relied on nonprofits to raise the roughly $1 million annually to keep Meals On Wheels going statewide. With a difficult economy, rising food and gas prices, and a rapidly growing senior population, non-profits simply cannot keep pace with the financial demands.

Over the past several years, CHEER and other nonprofits across the state have asked Gov. Jack Markell to add the roughly $1 million required to fully fund Meals On Wheels to his budget. To date, that has not happened. With a $3.6 billion budget in 2013, $1 million doesn’t seem like a lot of money for such an invaluable program that provides meals to seniors and allows individuals to remain safely in their own homes and saves the state money.

Meals On Wheels is the kind of program the state should invest in.

We hope Gov. Markell will include Meals On Wheels funding in this year’s budget and the legislative branch will approve it.  It’s the right thing to do for all of us.

Randy Nelson
CHEER marketing director

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