Wolf proposes initiative to allow 5,500 more seniors to receive home health care

Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday he wants more seniors to obtain health care in their home instead of a nursing facility

In an event at the AARP office in downtown Philadelphia, Wolf told about 30 people that his upcoming 2015-16 state budget plan would expand home- and community-based long-term care for an additional 5,500 people. The Democrat said the proposal would make long-term care for seniors more convenient and personal.

"Seniors have spent their lives working hard to provide for their families," Wolf said, noting that avoiding nursing-home care for that many people would save taxpayers $162 million a year.

"They've worked hard to build their communities and they should be able to enjoy their golden years in the homes that they built in the communities that they built," he said.

The state plans to increase the Department of Human Services' budget by $32 million and add about $7 million to the Department of Aging, Wolf said. The new money would allow the departments to add employees, though Wolf did not say how many would be hired.

Wolf also said he wants to make it easier for patients eligible for home health care to have their homes modified to make them more accessible.

AARP said a national study it co-authored last year ranked Pennsylvania 42nd among the states in meeting the long-term care needs of older residents.

"As the state with the nation's fourth oldest population, we believe expanding home and community-based programs and assisting family caregivers represents the most cost-efficient use of limited state resources," said AARP Pennsylvania director Bill Johnston-Walsh.

Wolf is scheduled to unveil his budget blueprint Tuesday.