The Senate Committee on Aging brought witnesses in Wednesday for a hearing on technology for helping older Americans stay in their homes as long as possible, while using as little expensive medical care as possible.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. said in her opening remarks that achieving that goal is critical to getting U.S. government spending under control.
To keep Medicaid nursing home spending from skyrocketing, the country needs to maximize the length of time the baby boomers can live on their own, McCaskill said at the hearing, which was streamed live on the Web.
“If we can figure this out, the implications of the cost savings are dramatic,” McCaskill said.
Marjorie Skubic, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Missouri, talked about efforts to develop specific home care support systems, such as fall detectors and a passive hydraulic bed sensor.
Dr. Maureen McCarthy, a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) official, talked about the VHA’s telehealth services program, which provided care for about 13 percent of the VHA’s enrolled veterans in 2014. The VHA telehealth program cut VHA bed days of care by 54 percent, and hospital admissions by 32 percent, McCarthy said.
“That translates into a significant cost savings,” McCarthy said.
Charles Strickler, a caregiver with a mother-in-law who is suffering from dementia, said his family worked with a home security company to develop a system for monitoring his mother-in-law while she continued to live in a home of her own.
The system has cost about $4,000 for equipment and monitoring services over a 30-month period. The Strickler family still uses some professional in-home care, but the security system has helped the family avoid about $200,000 in nursing home bills, Strickler testified.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the chairman of the Aging Committee, said policymakers need to come up with ways to promote use of independence-protecting technology, and help families pay for the technology, without leading to the kind of fraud and abuse that has plagued the mobility scooter market. “We want to make sure we’re not opening a whole new avenue for con artists,” Collins said.
For a look at some of witnesses’ and lawmakers’ ideas about how to expand appropriate use of home care technology, read on.