Opinion

After 30 years, personal allowance in nursing homes still $35

Nursing home patients at their facility. Photo: ChameleonsEye, via Shutterstock)

In 1965 Congress passed and the president signed into law Medicaid. At that time, they decided on how much a nursing home resident should be able to keep from his or her income toward meeting personal needs. They decided that $30 per month would be a fair allowance.

The Personal Needs Allowance (PNA) can be crucial to enhancing the quality of life for residents in California nursing homes who receive Medicaid. The PNA has remained the same at $35.00 since the 1980s. This leaves many older adults with very little cash to spend out of pocket as they wish on items like clothing, hobby materials, telephone calls, postage, toiletries, gifts, books and magazines, snacks, television, Internet services and other accessories.

I have visited a number of nursing homes and I don’t believe the current California PNA of $35.00 per month adequately funds the cost of our older adults to make their life more enjoyable.

Persons confined to nursing homes have personal pleasures like hobbies and getting their fingernails polished, luxuries that they deserve to be able to spend their monthly income on to be happy.

But because their out-of-pocket personal needs allowance hasn’t gone up in years, what little money they do receive each month doesn’t last very long, and that is unfortunate for individuals who have contributed so much to our society through their lives. Just because these individuals are now living in a nursing facility doesn’t mean they should be deprived of those personal items that would brighten their day or make their life more fulfilling.

Iowa’s personal needs allowance is $52.00, Kansas allowance is $62.00 and Colorado is $69.00. A bill in Nebraska this year would have originally increased PNA from $50.00 to $75.00 before the amended allowance was reduced to $60. A bill in the New York Legislature this year will increase PNA from $50.00 to $60.00 per month. Florida’s proposed budget supports an increase in the personal needs allowance from $35 to $105 per month for Social Security and Medicaid-eligible nursing home residents.

I have visited a number of nursing homes and I don’t believe the current California PNA of $35.00 per month adequately funds the cost of our older adults to make their life more enjoyable.

The PNA has not been raised in over 30 years in California, while at the same time inflation has increased by nearly 128%, according to the US. Department of Labor. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’ inflation calculator, $35.00 in 1985 dollars is now $79.47 in 2017 dollars. Adults in nursing homes are forgotten by California politicians in both good and bad economic times.

Once again, state legislation (SB 202) to increase our California PNA died when the state Senate Appropriations Committee placed it in the suspense (“kill-the-bill”) file. If SB 202 had been signed into law it would have increased the PNA from $35.00 to $80.00 per month – hardly a large sum but adequate.

Meanwhile, the salaries of the California State Legislature since 1990 has gone from $52,500 to over $107,000.00 today.

Ed’s Note: Carl Burton is president of the Republicans of River City and can be reached at carl@carlburton.com

 

 


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