WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

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Virginia Committee Seeks Changes To Assisted Living Laws

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Assisted living is now a preferred long-term care option for the growing population of senior citizens, but costs and restrictions often limit access to many. Now, the Virginia General Assembly's watchdog agency says some minor changes in state law could open the doors for additional residents. 

Many residents of assisted living facilities must use federal benefits and Medicaid, and some also receive a small state auxiliary grant. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission's Walt Smiley told lawmakers that if community groups or families want to help a senior financially, that could jeopardize eligibility for benefits.

"Payments from third parties cannot be used for food or shelter. These are the federal rules. And to use money from third parties for a private room or to provide better food, for example, would likely disqualify the individual from continuing to receive those benefits and maybe from Medicaid as well," Smiley says. 

But third-party payments for services such as medicine, eyeglasses, or dental care would not hurt eligibility and could be helpful. "The recipients have a significant problem paying for dental services," he says.  "Many AG [Auxiliary Grant] residents get their teeth pulled instead of fixed because it s all they can afford."

 The report from the review commission proposes state legislation to clarify that third-party funds can be used -- just not for room and board. 

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