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FRIDAY, Oct. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Expanding programs that provide meals to seniors would help keep more of them out of nursing homes and save some states money, according to a new study.
Researchers found that if every state in the continental United States increased the number of seniors who received meals at home by just 1 percent, it would help keep 1,722 more Medicaid recipients out of nursing homes.
In addition, 26 of the 48 states would save money because the decrease in Medicaid costs for nursing home care would be greater than the increased costs of providing more seniors with meals at home, the Brown University researchers said.
Pennsylvania would have the highest net savings ($5.7 million), while Florida would see a net cost of nearly $11.5 million, according to the study in the October issue of the journal Health Affairs.
The investigators also concluded that an expansion of in-home meal programs for seniors would enable more of them in all states to remain in their homes, whether or not they were on Medicaid.
The findings provide guidance for state policymakers as they consider the future of their home-delivered meals programs, said study lead author Kali Thomas, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health.
"We wanted to provide a roadmap for people," Thomas said in a university news release.
To arrive at their findings, the researchers analyzed various types of data, including how many seniors in each state receive home-delivered meals, how much it costs each state to provide those meals, the number of nursing home residents who could live at home if they were provided with in-home meals, and Medicaid costs for nursing home residents.
"In states like California and Florida where a 1-percent increase in the 65-plus population is a lot of people, it will cost those states a lot more to feed them," Thomas explained.
"We're not proposing that all states simply increase the proportion of age 65 plus receiving meals by 1 percent," she pointed out. "But if they were to target these vulnerable people who are at risk for nursing home placement they would likely see more savings. This is a program that has the potential to save states a lot of money if it's done correctly."
The U.S. National Institute on Aging explains how seniors can continue to live at home.
SOURCE: Brown University, news release, Oct. 7, 2013