From the NY Times:
Scores of elderly Russian immigrants played bingo under the chandeliers of a former funeral parlor in Brooklyn on a recent Monday, with a free dinner and door-to-door transportation from anywhere in the city.
Zhang Di Hua, 69, playing table tennis at Centre Street Adult Day Care in Chinatown, which receives money for serving impaired or disabled Medicaid recipients.
Nearby, older people speaking Chinese filled a supermarket-size storefront with vigorous games of table tennis, billiards and mah-jongg, and ordered free lunch from a takeout menu featuring minced pork, beef and salty fish.
In Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, at the new R G Social Adult Day Care Center, known locally among elderly immigrants for luring clients with cash and grocery vouchers, most people there for lunch did not stay to eat. Instead, many walked briskly toward the subway carrying bags stuffed with takeout containers, and two elderly men rode away on bicycles with the free food.
Not a wheelchair or walker was in sight at these so-called social adult day care centers. Yet the cost of attendance was indirectly being paid by Medicaid, under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s sweeping redesign of $2 billion in spending on long-term care meant for the impaired elderly and those with disabilities.
Such centers have mushroomed, from storefronts and basements to a new development in the Bronx that recently figured in a corruption scandal. With little regulation and less oversight, they grew in two years from eight tiny programs for people with dementia to at least 192 businesses across the city.
Managed care companies, financed by Medicaid, pay the centers to provide services to members. But the door swings both ways: Centers also refer new clients to the companies.
With the largest Medicaid budget in the country, $54 billion, New York is trying not only to rein in runaway spending, but also to “rebalance” it, away from costly institutional care, like nursing homes and medical models known for overbilling, to inexpensive supports that keep people safely in their communities.
In that context, Jason Helgerson, the state’s Medicaid chief, defended the rapid expansion of social-model adult day care, saying that without a chance to socialize and connect with others, Medicaid clients would suffer a decline in health that would add costs. But when a reporter described some of the practices observed at centers, he expressed surprise and anger.