By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — It’s right there on every Pennsylvania Lottery ticket, terminal and receipt: “Benefits Older Pennsylvanians. Every Day.”
But the promise of increased lottery profits has at least one advocacy group paying attention to where the state says it will spend those dollars.
The state plans to enter a contract with a private lottery manager, Camelot Global Services, which promises billions in new profits.
Gov. Tom Corbett said Thursday that the agreement is aimed at “planning for tomorrow” in the face of an aging population and increased demand for senior citizen social services.
Pennsylvania Lottery profits traditionally have supported programs that help older citizens who still live at home. Billions of dollars have gone to services like property tax rebates, prescription drug discounts, at-home meal delivery and free transportation — all services meant to help Pennsylvanians age in place.
But during the past few years, the state has relied on millions of lottery dollars to plug holes in the general fund budget related to senior spending, like for Medicaid costs related to nursing home care. The state used more than $1.6 billion in lottery profits in this way since 2006.
Secretary of Aging Brian Duke confirmed earlier this week that’s not going to change.
The state’s elderly population requires a “continuum of care,” Duke said. That includes providing for those at home, and those who require more intensive care, like at a nursing home.
“I would see a portion of those dollars still going to support nursing home care, but we would see this additional revenue going to home and community care,” Duke said.
Camelot proposes bringing in $34 billion in lottery profits during a 20-year contract. State officials, including Secretary of Revenue Dan Meuser, said they believe that’s between $3 billion and $4.5 billion more than it would generate otherwise.
Ray Landis, AARP Pennsylvania advocacy director, said despite record-breaking lottery profits last year, Pennsylvania has kept funding flat for programs like meal delivery, at-home aides, property tax rebates and free transportation. At the same time, it increased the amount of money it redirected to Medicaid long-term care spending.
This year, Corbett’s budget redirected $309 million from lottery revenue to the Medicaid nursing home budget. In Corbett’s previous two budgets, that figure was around $178 million, according to a legislative report. The redirection of lottery funds began in 2006 under Gov. Ed Rendell.
“We felt this was a pretty major departure … to start using the lottery receipts and revenues over in the Department of Public Welfare for Medicaid,” Landis said. “It’s really a completely different purpose than the first 35 or 45 years of the lottery.”
But, now that the administration is trumpeting the billions more that the lottery will make, Landis said he hopes the state will be true to its word about at-home care spending.
And, he said he hopes the state will return to lower spending levels of the past if it continues to use lottery profits for long-term funding. Older Pennsylvanians would rather stay at home, and services that help them stay there are less expensive than nursing homes, he said.
“If we don’t make this change right now — with the way the demographics are going — and try to keep people at home as long as possible instead of having them go to a nursing home in the numbers that we have in Pennsylvania, we can’t afford it,” he said.
All signs from the administration pointed to making that shift happen. Corbett said in a news release on Thursday the lottery privatization agreement will bring an additional $50 million for home- and community-based services in the coming budget year alone.
That includes putting more money in service programs that have a waiting list of more than 5,400 seniors.
“We will use this new money to address the need and demand for our programs, specifically, I propose to use it for home and community-based services so that older adults may continue to live in their homes,” Corbett said.
Contact Melissa Daniels at [email protected]