Sen. Matthew L. LaMountain (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) and Rep. Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) have introduced legislation that would allow nursing home residents a little bit more money to pay for their monthly personal needs.
The Personal Needs Allowance is the amount of monthly income a Medicaid-funded nursing home resident can keep of their personal income. Since room, board, and medical care are covered by Medicaid, the majority of one’s income must go towards the cost of nursing home care. The allowance is intended to cover the nursing home resident’s personal expenses, which are not covered by Medicaid.
Under state law, each nursing home resident is allowed a monthly stipend of $50, which can be spent towards a variety of personal items and services. The legislation (2023-S 0571, 2023-H 6205) would increase that allowance from $50 to $100 per month.
“Nursing home residents, the frailest in our state, suffer enough indignities of old age, without having to stretch $50 for a whole month,” said Senator LaMountain. “The law setting that allowance at $50 is now decades old, and is in dire need of an increase. These residents, who were once the lifeblood of our state, are forced to hand over all their income and live on less than a pittance.”
Authorized by the Supplemental Security Act Amendments of 1972, the federally mandated allowance was set at $25 a month. It was raised just once — in 1987 — to $30 a month, where it remains. Medicaid is jointly administered between individual states and the federal government; so, faced with federal inaction, many states, including Rhode Island, took it upon themselves to raise allowances. However, Rhode Island hasn’t raised its allowance since the last century.
“A personal needs allowance of $50 per month has turned our nursing homes into de facto poor houses,” said Representative Solomon. “If the allowance had been linked to inflation, it would be about $180 today. So, a resident buying a new sweater and a weekly bag of chips would find themselves tapped out until next month. We shouldn’t have our seniors living in an environment where a new toothbrush is considered a luxury they can’t afford. This is about dignity.”
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