Our review of the oversight for six long-term care programs noted the following concerns:
Long-term care covers an array of services for older or disabled people who need extended assistance or care for their social and medical needs. The State's need for long-term care will increase over the next two decades, when the number of Californians age 65 or older is projected to increase from 3.4 million in 2000 to 6.4 million in 2025, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Further, in 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that there were 3.8 million disabled Californians between the ages of 21 and 64. To monitor the quality of long-term care, various state departments oversee California's long-term care programs. These long-term care programs had costs of approximately $10.5 billion for fiscal year 2000-01, funded from a variety of sources. Oversight by government entities is critical to protect this industry's vulnerable clients, as shown by documented problems with the quality of long-term care services. At the same time, the State must limit overlap and fragmentation of these oversight activities, which can burden providers. We reviewed six of the State's long-term care programs and found opportunities to streamline the oversight activities of three programs: the adult day health care program, the program of all-inclusive care for the elderly (PACE), and the multipurpose senior services program (multipurpose program).
For example, the Department of Health Services (Health Services) and the Department of Aging (Aging) duplicate each other's efforts when they conduct separate licensing and certification onsite reviews to oversee adult day health care centers (health care centers). This duplication occurs because the separate sets of regulations the departments follow when conducting their respective reviews overlap. Moreover, the departments do not conduct a joint review, which could mitigate the regulatory overlap. In addition, certain Health Services' Medi-Cal field offices conduct separate visits to some health care centers and may find noncompliance with many of the same regulations reviewed during the health care centers' licensing and certification reviews. Consolidating and coordinating these reviews could make oversight more efficient and may lessen any burden created for health care centers.
Another area in need of streamlining is the oversight of PACE, which offers health care centers and primary care clinics, among other services. PACE providers are governed by separate state licensing regulations for various services their facilities offer and are subject to numerous onsite visits by Health Services. In addition, PACE providers must comply with federal program regulations and a state contract, which are monitored on an ongoing basis by a distinct entity within Health Services. Creating a separate license unique to PACE could lessen the burden on the providers and make Health Services' oversight more efficient.
Health Services' expanded oversight of the multipurpose senior services program (multipurpose program)—which Aging oversees under Health Services' supervision—now overlaps with Aging's role. After a federal review conducted in 1999, Health Services expanded its oversight role by accompanying Aging's staff on many of their utilization reviews to the local multipurpose program sites. Health Services believes this expanded oversight is needed to respond to federal concerns about inadequate oversight and to ensure that multipurpose program sites use federal funds appropriately. Although Health Services is conducting a pilot process to devise a permanent model for multipurpose program oversight, we believe it should develop a reasonable rationale for the number of utilization reviews it ultimately decides to attend or, alternatively, assume responsibility for the program itself.
We found fewer opportunities to streamline oversight of the remaining three programs we reviewed: skilled nursing facilities, adult day programs, and Alzheimer's day care resource centers (Alzheimer's centers). For skilled nursing facilities, there is little flexibility for Health Services to reduce the scope, number, or frequency of its reviews because the federal government, as a condition of receiving federal funding, mandates how these reviews are conducted. Oversight by the Department of Justice's Operation Guardians program, which conducts surprise inspections of skilled nursing facilities, adds a level of protection for residents of these facilities rather than duplicating Health Services' oversight. Also, the State's Long-Term Care Ombudsman adds another oversight dimension by resolving complaints about skilled nursing facility residents' quality of life.
Further, because the Department of Social Services (Social Services) limits its oversight of adult day programs, we found no significant overlap in oversight for this program. Regional centers, county mental health departments, and local area agencies on aging (local area agencies) also oversee adult day programs, but they focus primarily on the delivery of services to their clients. Communication about adult day programs takes place between Social Services and the regional centers, but better communication between Social Services and two other departments, Health Services and Aging, would create more efficient oversight for a small number of facilities shared by adult day programs and other long-term care programs we reviewed.
Finally, because most Alzheimer's centers reside in facilities offering other long-term care programs—mostly health care centers and adult day programs—the oversight of Alzheimer's centers could benefit from better coordination among state and local agencies. Alzheimer's centers are under Aging's oversight but are directly overseen by local area agencies, which are government or nonprofit entities under contract with Aging to provide services to seniors. However, there is no formal process to share oversight information between the local area agencies and Health Services, which licenses health care centers, and between the local area agencies and Social Services, which licenses adult day program facilities. In the governor's proposed budget for fiscal year 2004-05, separate funding for the Alzheimer's centers is merged into a block grant that will be provided to the local area agencies. Thus, Alzheimer's centers may continue to exist only to the extent that the local area agencies choose to fund them.
To minimize duplication of effort in adult day health care oversight and potentially lessen the resulting burden on health care centers, Health Services should incorporate Aging's certification review into its licensing review, combine the licensing and certification regulations, and coordinate to the extent possible any Medi-Cal field office oversight activities to occur during the licensing and certification reviews. If Health Services determines a statutory change is necessary to implement our recommendation, it should ask the Legislature to consider changing the statutes governing the adult day health care program.
To streamline PACE oversight, the Legislature should consider allowing a single license that authorizes all the long-term care services a PACE provider offers, regardless of the facility that provides the services.
To reduce overlapping efforts between itself and Aging in overseeing the multipurpose program, Health Services should complete its pilot process and develop a reasonable rationale for the percentage of utilization reviews it attends. Alternatively, after evaluating the results of its pilot process, Health Services could assume responsibility for the multipurpose program.
Aging should work with Health Services to implement our recommendations to streamline the oversight for the adult day health care and multipurpose programs.
Social Services should better coordinate its oversight efforts with Health Services and Aging for the small number of adult day programs that share facilities with other programs.
If the Alzheimer's centers remain a separately funded program in fiscal year 2004-05, Aging should work with Health Services and Social Services to share and act on findings from oversight visits. If funding for the Alzheimer's centers is merged into a block grant, the departments and area agencies on aging should share information to the extent that area agencies on aging choose to continue funding Alzheimer's centers.
Health Services should work with Social Services and Aging to implement our recommendations regarding adult day program and Alzheimer's centers oversight.
The departments of Aging, Health Services, and Social Services generally agree with our recommendations and indicate that they have begun taking steps to address the issues raised in our report. The Health and Human Services Agency (agency) indicates that the governor is currently conducting a complete performance review of state government, during which the function of each department within the agency will be examined to ensure efficient and effective operations. The agency states that our report will help inform these review efforts.