Health care and senior care advocates, including sign waving SEIU troops in their signature purple shirts, have been vocal and present in Olympia since the state House and Senate released their budgets earlier this week.

In particular, they've been making noise about the Senate's budget which, they complained, fell short in comparison to the House budget for the elderly and disabled.

The Senate had cut Medicaid programs (personal care services for 700 elders and 700 people with disabilities) and didn't restore home care for about 9000 clients, nor restore adult day health care for about 600 seniors. (The House budget also left out the home care and day health care programs, but it funded the Medicaid personal care services.)

However, last night Sens. Adam Kline (D-37, South Seattle) and Karen Keiser (D-33, Burien) passed amendments in the Senate Ways and Means Committee that fund all three pieces:

1) Medicaid personal care services (a $5.8 million program with a matching $9.3 million federal contribution); 2) Home care (a $5.1 million program with $8.3 million now coming in from the feds); and 3) Adult day health care (at $1 million in the Senate budget now—serving about 330 people instead of the full 600—with $1.6 million from the feds.)

The House still isn't funding the home care and day health care.

In an email to Senate Ways and Means Chair Sen. Margarita Prentice (D-11, South Seattle) early this morning, Elder Care Alliance Chair Jerry Reilly, who was commandeering the fight to restore senior services last week, wrote:
With the changes you made last night, the proposed Senate Budget is now the best we have seen with regard to issues affecting frail elderly people. We deeply appreciate your hard work and your support of these vital programs.

And SIEU 775 leader David Rolf said in a statement: “Senate Democrats showed real leadership today in protecting quality care for the most vulnerable. Their actions will help tens of thousands of seniors, people with disabilities, and their low-wage caregivers.”

Although, clearly feeling like they've got the momentum now, the advocates are continuing to press their cause. The SEIU statement concluded:
"Unfortunately, the Senate budget still includes deep cuts to nursing homes and home care agencies, and the House proposed budget still slashes hours of care for 9000 vulnerable home care clients."

And Reilly tells PubliCola, "Pretty good progress, but we still have a ways to go," pointing out what we noted above—adult day health care was only restored to serve 330 people as opposed to the 600 clients on the program (about $800,000 shy in the Senate budget and nowhere in the House budget).

And Reilly adds that the in-home care is about $1.5 million shy of being fully funded.
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