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Advocates Want State to Delay Health Transition for Elderly and Disabled

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Next month, a federal pilot program aimed at improving care for the most vulnerable is set to start rolling out in some California counties.

Cal MediConnect is supposed to help seniors and disabled people in seven California counties get better coordinated health services — from in-home caregivers to physicians. Those who are affected will automatically be rolled into the program. They have the opportunity, though, to make choices about where and how they will get their care.

But some advocates say information about making those choices has been unclear and is coming too late.

With four counties set to roll out the program in April and May, they are calling on the state to put the program on hold.

“We sent (the state) a letter with five other organizations saying there should be a delay,” said Amber Cutler, a staff attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center. “They are always putting out fires (with this) and have no time to prepare to prevent problems. That is particularly troublesome when thinking about adding Los Angeles and Alameda in July. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people who will be affected.” Continue reading

Medi-Cal Cuts Undermining Senior Programs, Facilities, Advocates Say

Protestors carry signs against proposed Medi-Cal cuts outside San Francisco city hall in  2011 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Protestors carry signs against proposed Medi-Cal cuts outside San Francisco City Hall in 2011 in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By David Gorn, California Healthline

The irony of the situation was not lost on Linda Trowbridge, CEO of the Center for Elders’ Independence in Oakland.

At an Assembly hearing in Sacramento last week, Trowbridge said funding for California’s Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly — or PACE — has been systematically cut over the past six years and yet it is often cited as the model of care the state would like to pursue.

“Adult day health care is essentially skilled nursing care in a community setting, and this Medi-Cal rate reduction threatens our whole industry.”
The federally subsidized program is aimed at providing and coordinating care to allow seniors and people with disabilities to remain living at home.

“Everybody who is in this program would otherwise be in a skilled nursing facility,” Trowbridge said. The program saves the state money, she said, pointing to estimates that PACE centers cost 11 percent of what it would cost to have people go to nursing facilities. Ironically, the PACE program is one of the state’s models for its Coordinated Care Initiative for dual eligibles, Trowbridge said. Continue reading

In San Francisco, Seniors Are Singing for Science

Martha Rodriguez-Salazar of the Community Music Center leads the senior choir. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

Martha Rodriguez-Salazar leads the senior choir. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

In an auditorium tucked behind San Francisco’s Mission Neighborhood Center, a new choir is rehearsing a collection of familiar Spanish songs. The 20 members of the choir didn’t need to audition; no singing experience required here. Instead, they needed just one thing: to be age 60 or older.

They’re part of an innovative study spearheaded at UCSF and funded by the National Institutes of Health. Over the next four years, researchers will launch a dozen community choirs to see if singing in a choir can have an effect on healthy aging. It’s a joint project of UCSF, the San Francisco Department of Aging and the San Francisco Community Music Center.

Researchers are interested in the quantifiable health benefits of singing in a choir. Right now, there are almost no hard data.
As the choir rehearses “Besame Mucho,” 82-year-old Francisco Sanchez stands in the back row. Sanchez has suffered from depression and fights what he calls “negative thinking.” So when he saw a flyer in his apartment advertising the choir, he thought he’d give it a try.

“Everyone, they are so kind, so nice, so I feel like I am in home,” says Sanchez in accented English. He’s originally from Guatemala, and has lived in the U.S. permanently since 1977.

Sanchez says he looks forward to Friday rehearsals. And after just a few weeks of participating, he’s feeling better.

Continue reading