Proposed Cuts Could Displace Elderly, 70 Jobs Could Go

MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) - Nearly 200 senior citizens could lose vital medical care if state lawmakers approve cuts to Medicaid. Mercy LIFE is a PACE program providing all inclusive care for the elderly. The goal is to provide care to the elderly who desire to stay home. Officials worry the cuts could force seniors into nursing homes. Health experts also fear the elderly will use the emergency room for primary care. If the state approves the current plan, about 70 people could lose their jobs too.

"I don't know what I'd do without Mercy LIFE," said participant Sandy Ford. "I really don't."

For the last three years, Ford has received the majority of her medical care at Mercy Medical's LIFE center.
She suffers from arthritis, cervical dystonia, and fibromyalgia.

"Knowing we have a doctor right here and 24/7 if we have a problem, we know we can call," said Ford.

Having access to a physician is just one of the many services the 68-year-old receives through the LIFE program.

"We are the only PACE program in the state of Alabama," said Mercy Medical Vice President of Marketing and Government Relations Donna Wilhelm. "PACE programs essentially take care of people- elderly people 55 or older who are nursing home eligible or nursing home level of care who prefer to stay at home."

Services for seniors include: adult day health services, primary and specialty care, prescription medications, occupational, physical and speech therapies, in home assistance with bathing and dressing, dental care, and even transportation to and from the center.

Ford is one of 175 participants.

"I feel like this is a God send to the Mobile County to the seniors here," said Ford.

The LIFE program is funded by Medicaid and Medicare. Wilhelm said proposed budget cuts to Medicaid threaten to shut the doors of the LIFE center.

"The budget in Medicaid for Mercy LIFE, because we bring in federal matching dollars, is under 2.2 million," said Wilhelm. "So it's a very small amount."

It is an amount Wilhelm said will not balance the budget. She stated about 70 people could lose their jobs, and many senior citizens will have to find care somewhere else.

"Ultimately many of them will end up institutionalized in nursing homes," said Wilhelm.

Wilhelm said the state will have to pick up the expense to place seniors in nursing homes. She said in the end, it will cost the state more money to shut down the center.

"We need this," said Ford. "They need to understand how important this is."

Mercy Medical has started running ads to encourage people to reach out to lawmakers to make sure the center keeps its funding.

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