AARP Survey Shows Long-Term Care Key Issue in Arkansas Gubernatorial Race

Aug 19, 2014

90 Percent Want Care Other Than At A Nursing Home
Credit AARP / AARP

A survey released Tuesday from AARP finds 91 percent of Arkansans age 50 and older have a desire for services to shift to at-home care rather than at institutions like nursing homes.

Herb Sanderson with AARP Arkansas said state and federal spending on long-term care is an issue the organization for seniors would like to see addressed by electoral candidates.

“We have a system that is biased toward institutional care when we have solutions that are less expensive than nursing homes. That sends a strong message to candidates running for office in terms of voters wanting a different system than what we have in place now when it comes to long-term care,” said Sanderson.

He continued, “In terms of low-care needs in nursing homes we rank 8th in the United States [according to an AARP scorecard]. So, 42 other states have figured out a way to serve people with low-care needs better in the community.”

The results also show show Democrat Mike Ross with a slight edge over Republican Asa Hutchinson, leading 46 to 44 percent, within the margin of error. 10 percent reported being undecided. The survey did not ask about Libertarian Frank Gilbert or Green Party candidate Joshua Drake.

The survey of 1,200 likely voters is the largest sample collected of 50 and older Arkansans but it was also conducted nearly two months ago from June 24th to July 1st. A more recent Talk Business-Hendrix College poll showed Hutchinson with a 4.5 percent lead among seniors with a 2.3 percent margin of error.

AARP released some of the same information on issues concerning those 50 and older earlier this month along with polling results for the US Senate race between Republican Tom Cotton and Democrat Mark Pryor.

Drake, Gilbert, and Ross responded to a question asking for reaction to the AARP survey and to comment on the idea of shifting care away from institutions and toward at-home care.

Mike Ross's (D) response:

I believe we should better empower seniors in Arkansas to have more control over their own retirement and long-term care decisions, which is a key part to my Seniors Bill of Rights - a series of priorities that will guide my work as governor to protect, support and empower Arkansas seniors. There is a clear choice for seniors in this campaign: Congressman Hutchinson supports privatizing Social Security and voted against elderly programs in Congress, and I have always fought against privatizing Social Security and Medicare and have outlined a Seniors Bill of Rights to help ensure every Arkansan has the opportunity to live long, happy and healthy lives.

Joshua Drake's (G) response:

The right and ability to live out one’s senior years in the home rather than in a nursing home should be a priority for state lawmakers. The Arkansas Elder Choices Medicaid waiver program of the past 20 yrs. has proven that it is often times less expensive to help someone maintain in their home than it is for Medicaid to pay for nursing home care. I support the expansion of that program to allow more seniors the option to stay in their home or to move into less restrictive group assisted living facilities when nursing home care is not needed or desired.

Frank Gilbert's (LP) response:

It is encouraging to me that even with the selective questions posed by AARP to a selective portion of the electorate, the overriding concern of potential voters is that taxes are too high. On page 12 of their report they show that the only component of "Economic Anxiety Index" that had more than 50% concern was "Having to pay too much in taxes." If we get off citizens' backs and out of their pockets they will be able to answer most of their other concerns. Try as they might, AARP was unable to hide that fact.

Asa Hutchinson's (R) response:

"Arkansas’s seniors deserve quality, reliable and affordable care, whether it’s home health care or at an independent or assisted living facility, and I will work to ensure that the voices of our senior citizens are heard and that they have choices in health care. The most recent polls show that seniors support our campaign, and I would be honored to represent them as governor."