Commentary: Alaska's in-home health services are a mess

Federal monitors and the state Department of Health and Social Services revealed a sad state of affairs this week: The state has neglected important responsibilities in the care of some of our most vulnerable citizens, elderly and disabled people. State programs meant to help them with care in their own homes are so poorly managed, according to the federal government, that the feds have ordered the state not to add any new people until it makes improvements. That could take four or five months.--

Both of those situations — the state's poor management and the federal plan to forbid new cases — are hurtful to some of the state's neediest residents.

The programs are paid for by Medicaid. They allow people to get in-home help with daily activities ranging from taking medicine to cooking dinner. These home-care services, a joint federal-state responsibility, keep people out of nursing homes and save the state money.

The state estimates about 1,000 Alaskans will be stuck without in-home help by the moratorium on new cases. That means patients will be in 24-hour care facilities when they don't need to be. Others will have to rely on families and friends who struggle to care for them.

The state should quickly hire the staff it needs to fulfill its responsibilities, and quickly put safe procedures into practice.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.