“New Status Quo” Thinking Puts Safety Net in Grave Danger

April 29, 2014 – Now that the years of state budget cuts to aging services are over, a strange phenomenon is setting in. Regardless that the reduced service capacity is woefully inadequate to meet current need, perform the mission, or prepare for future population growth; the “new status quo” has taken root in the minds of legislators and other policy makers.

Worrying examples include Medi-Cal rates for CBAS and PACE, IHSS, Older Californians Act services, and MSSP. Today I’ll focus on MSSP, the Multipurpose Senior Services Program.

MSSP is an outstanding success at keeping frail older adults with multiple chronic conditions in their homes. It prevents costly acute and long-term institutionalization, thus saving the state an estimated $117 million annually in return for the investment of roughly $20.3 million in state general funds (this investment also leverages federal match, dollar for dollar).

So you would think the state would use this awesome tool to manage Medi-Cal’s highest risk population, especially since MSSP is a part of the Coordinated Care Initiative, right? Not unless the new status quo is challenged and funding is increased. This is because the total number of MSSP “slots” is set at 9,440 statewide, limiting the number of people who can be served at any point in time. It doesn’t matter if more eligible people urgently need MSSP’s intervention, or if a CCI Managed Care Plan determines that a patient needs MSSP. The number of slots is set. The governor proposes this status quo in his FY 2014-15 budget.

In Alameda County, we face a critical shortage of MSSP slots – only 380 slots between the two MSSP providers in Oakland and Fremont. Hundreds of eligible seniors wait, and often die or enter nursing homes while on the wait list.

This is unacceptable. Advocates are asking the state to invest an additional $5.1 million of state general fund dollars to MSSP’s budget in FY 2014-15. This investment would enable MSSP to serve 2,762 more frail seniors annually, and would add 100 slots in Alameda County. Not the capacity we need, but a start.

With a governor whose austere budget plan calls for few restorations, we face an uphill battle to challenge status quo thinking of legislators. But it is essential that we try.

Please join us in insisting that California build adequate capacity in the safety net of services to meet the needs of our growing senior population. Write to the Assembly and Senate budget committees today. Click here and here for sample letters.


Return to State Budget page.