AUSTIN -- Many Texas seniors will be hit hard if

the state Senate Finance Committee can't find a way this week to

restore funding to long-term care programs.

Under the budget already passed by the House,

seniors now getting in-home care could be forced into nursing

homes, says Trey Berndt, AARP of Texas' associate state

director for advocacy. At the same time, he says, nursing homes

could be forced to reduce their quality of care - or shut their

doors entirely.

"I don't think most Texans understand the dire

impact of what's really at stake here. I know Texans are concerned

about the budget, but I think the reality of these cuts would be a

shock to most Texans.

The state is on the brink of a frightening

relocation of its most vulnerable and medically fragile citizens,

Berndt says, at a human cost that would come without any real

fiscal savings. Of the 180,000 Texas seniors needing long-term

care, almost 70 percent receive it primarily at home. The cost of

home-based care is a fraction of facility-based care, Berndt says,

so taxpayers would have to pick up the tab for higher Medicaid

payouts if those seniors are forced to move.

Texas nursing homes already are struggling,

receiving the second-lowest levels of state aid in the country,

Berndt says, but so far the high reliance on in-home care has

helped keep the state's system in balance.

"That's not a balance that you want to upset, and

to do otherwise would be penny wise and pound foolish."

Berndt says the budget should fund both nursing

homes and community care programs at at least their current levels.

Senators on the Finance Committee have expressed a desire to boost

funding beyond what the House has proposed, but it's yet to be seen

how much of the gap, if any, they can fill.