9 Investigates: Thousands of could be forced from care facilities with Medicaid changes

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Medicaid changes taking effect Jan. 1, mean thousands of elderly and disabled North Carolinians could be forced to leave the care facilities they call home.

The state commission in charge of reviewing several Medicaid changes, the Blue Ribbon Commission, presented its final report with recommendations for the General Assembly in Raleigh on Wednesday.

But some advocates said they were disappointed with the report.

"Devastated," said Hugh Campbell, president of the North Carolina Association, Long-Term Care Facilities.

To comply with a new federal requirement, state legislators increased requirements for people to qualify for Medicaid-funded personal care services, like bathing and dressing.

It's effective Jan. 1.

State health officials estimate once they've been assessed, about half of the approximately 20,000 people getting these services in assisted living facilities will no longer qualify.

Campbell said while $39.7 million has been set aside to help these people transition out of facilities, he said there's just not enough housing in the community available.

"There's not a plan for them," he said.

The report does direct the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to study Medicaid eligibility and options for family to pay for the lost services.

Eyewitness News tried to reach health officials but they would only say they were "digesting" the report even though Acting Secretary of Health Al Delia is on the commission.

Sen. Ralph Hise said if facilities won't provide the services without Medicaid funding for them, people will need to figure out a solution for themselves.

"The individual's out there to find another place to live or someone, including family, to provide those services," he said.

People can appeal their assessments and stay in their facilities while their case is being decided.

That would give many people a few extra months before having to leave.

Health officials expect nearly everyone who no longer qualifies to file an appeal.