A report has concluded that some state agencies are not prepared to cope with Virginia's aging population.
Five years ago, 1.1 million Virginians were 60 or older. That number is estimated to reach 2.4 million by 2030.
"I think we've got a major issue in front of us," Del. John S. "Jack" Reid (R-Henrico) said at a recent hearing. He requested the study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, the legislature's investigative arm.
Among the findings:
* There are shortages of Medicaid-funded nursing home beds, and low Medicaid reimbursement rates make it difficult to hire staff members who can handle residents with behavioral problems.
* Medicaid cost projections do not account for the increasing life expectancy of mentally retarded people or the aging of family members who care for them.
* The prison population is aging. Those at least 50 years old increased by 56 percent between fiscal 1999 and 2003. Overall, the prison population grew by 18 percent.
* The state has ombudsmen for one of every 3,400 long-term-care beds. It should have one for every 2,000, but the funding isn't available.
* Less than 1 percent of transportation funding is dedicated to the elderly and disabled.
"I've been concerned for a long time about our inability to provide alternatives for the aging population to go into nursing homes," said Sen. Walter A. Stosch (R-Henrico), a member of the audit board. "I think there are alternatives -- home care -- but the reimbursement rate is so low that it's not attractive."
Reid said lawmakers would have to address the most pressing problems over the next two to four years and develop a long-term plan for everything else.
Commissioner Jay DeBoer of the state Department for the Aging is expected to have a hand in prioritizing the most immediate needs. DeBoer, a former state delegate, said the most obvious challenge is the potential rising cost of Medicaid.
According to a recent estimate from the administration of Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), just keeping pace with inflation and rising enrollments in Medicaid will cost $500 million over the next two years.