June 5, 2001
a recent Seattle Times editorial (5/29/01) titled, “Hot Dogs or Senior Care,
Vendor Needs a Fair Deal,” Michael Reichert, President of Catholic Community
Services of Western Washington, analogizes Washington State’s home care
providers to hot dog vendors at a ball game.
To wit, both have many hidden costs that must be met to bring their
product to market. Catholic
Community Services contracts with the State of Washington to provide home care
to low-income seniors.
the case of home care providers, Reichert explains, the state’s reimbursement
or “vendor” rate wasn’t enough to cover costs last year.
“As a result, says Reichert, “we—and virtually every other
nonprofit home-care provider agency in the state—were forced to either
withhold services, raise additional funds or apply previous financial reserves
to cover the deficits.”
should we address this problem? More
taxpayer money, of course. According
to Reichert, “Home-care agencies deserve just and fair payments that cover the
actual cost of delivering services. Instead,
we’re doing charity work for the state so it can meet its obligations to our
citizens. . . . The state should be
required by its citizens to adequately fund this work.
Think of the ‘vendor rate’ as your gauge of caring,” suggests
Reichert. “The problem is we’re
getting stiffed.” Coincidentally,
the editorial reveals, Washington State’s home care industry is now asking the
state legislature for a raise in the “vendor rate” for the next biennium.
Reichert, “If you think about it, it’s really quite simple.
When you buy a hot dog, you fund the vendor and then some.
But, when it comes to care for our elderly and disabled, shortchanging
has become the order of the day. It’s
time to pay the piper: With the
‘Graying of America,’ the number of our elders needing home care will only
escalate. The current shortsighted ‘penny-wise’ policy will
undoubtedly become tomorrow’s folly.”
CLTCF Comment: Mr. Reichert’s analogy of home care providers to vendors at a ball game doesn’t hold because of one critical distinction. Ball game vendors don't depend on the state for survival. These vendors rely on market forces to determine what they can reasonably offer at competitive prices. Most LTC providers, on the other hand, are overly dependent on government reimbursement that will never pay enough to assure top quality care at the most appropriate level for all who need care. The solution for providers is not to plead for more taxpayer dollars just to tread water, but to promote more private financing options that actually cover the cost of care and may even allow for investing in staff and facility.
Moreover, the more providers depend on government reimbursement, the greater the likelihood their future will be influenced by political decisions beyond their control. Conversely, less dependence on public money (and more reliance on private financing) will result in greater insulation from shifting political winds. All the more reason providers should promote savings, investment and insurance for long-term care. More people planning ahead and taking responsibility for their care will result in more private dollars flowing directly to providers. In turn, fewer people relying on welfare for long-term care will reduce pressure on public coffers which elected officials can then use to fund high-quality care for a limited needy population.
Michael Reichert, “Hot Dogs or Senior Care, Vendor Needs a Fair
Deal,” Seattle Times, May 29, 2001, p. B-5.
Online at www.seattletimes.com.