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Looming deadline could force thousands from assisted living facilities

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A deadline is looming that could force thousands of people living in adult care homes out on the streets. North Carolina has until April 30 to come up with a new way to distribute Medicaid payments to people living in group homes and private homes.

Nearly 130 people stay at Champions Assisted Living in New Hanover County. A handful of them could soon be searching for a new place to live.

“As a provider, we don’t know what that means for us. We don’t know how to prepare for it,” Champions CEO Charles Long said.

Long recently learned about the federally-imposed April 30 deadline. At issue is how North Carolina distributes Medicaid payments to people who live at home but still get help with with some personal care services such as dressing and bathing versus those who live in an assisted living facility. Treating them differently violates federal rules.

“They’re coming to us to say you need to have the same system for both scenarios when they approved us doing it differently 10-12 years ago, and the state is struggling to find a way to do it this time because it’s like apples and oranges,” said Peggy Smith with the North Carolina Assisted Living Association.

Smith says if the deadline is not extended, about 11,000 frail and elderly group home residents could be on the street.

“The bigger concern is where will they go?” Smith said. “It’s one thing to discharge, which is difficult, but if you’re not being paid to care for them, then you don’t have a choice. In many cases, they don’t have another option.”

Long hopes the state will get an extension until January 1. In the meantime, his staff is letting patients and their families know what could be coming in just a few weeks.

“But we are trying not to overly excite them and letting them know we will work with them and help them find appropriate placement if we’re not able to provide the service,” Long said.

The state is working to get an extension. If not North Carolina group homes will lose about $414 million in Medicaid payments.

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