April 26, 2017

House Reduction of the Personal Needs Allowance Symptomatic of a Harsh Budget for Vulnerable Floridians

Another glaring example of balancing the budget on the backs of struggling Floridians is the House’s unfortunate proposal to cut the personal needs allowance (PNA) for Medicaid patients residing in nursing homes or other institutions.  In a recent column, former Senate President, Don Gaetz, compares this strategy to “digging under grandma’s bed in the nursing home to see if she is hiding a jar of nickels.”

Who is affected by this proposal? The low-income elderly, veterans and persons with disabilities who live in Medicaid-funded residential facilities across the state. These patients must pay most of their income to the nursing home for the cost of care, but they can hold on to a small PNA. It can be used for items not covered by Medicaid, such as a telephone, clothing, vitamins, toiletries, haircuts or a birthday card for their grandchild.

Prior to 2014, Florida’s PNA had remained at $35 per month for 49 years! Then, inspired by a plea from a constituent nursing home resident, former Senate President Don Gaetz and his son, former State Representative Matt Gaetz, successfully championed increasing the allowance from $35 per month to $105 per month.

The House is now proposing to reduce this allowance to $70 per month. Although this is projected to save about $8 million in state funds, it will simultaneously trigger the loss of $13 million in federal dollars. This is a quality of care issue making a profound difference in the everyday lives of nursing home residents across the state. We can do better for our most vulnerable Floridians.

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