Pennsylvania residents of nursing homes and other institutions who are able to live in the community with proper support will now get extra help from Medicaid to make that move according to an announcement today by CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D.
As part of President Bush’s New Freedom Initiative, states are now able to pay certain one-time costs of moving into a home in the community from an institution. Pennsylvania hopes to help as many as 1,500 residents return to their communities.
“Providing this help under the president’s New Freedom Initiative will make it possible for many people to return to their communities and lead more productive lives,” Dr. McClellan said. “It has long been this administration’s policy that no one who can live in the community with proper supports should be forced to live in an institution.”
Through certain Medicaid waiver programs, states can help people make this important transition by paying for moving expenses, security deposits, utility set up fees and some essential household items like beds, dishes, chairs and tables. Medicaid funds, however, cannot be used to pay for entertainment items such as television sets, or for rent payments.
Today’s announcement also supports states’ efforts to comply with a 1999 Supreme Court ruling in Olmstead v. L.C. that held that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, unjustified institutionalization of a person with a disability who wants to live in the community is discrimination.
“We must do everything possible to support states that are trying to comply with the Olmstead ruling to permit people with disabilities who wish to participate in the lives of their community to do so,” said Dr. McClellan. “And it’s especially important for us to encourage states to take steps like this one – steps that not only improve the quality of lives of our beneficiaries, but that also reduce Medicaid costs for states and the federal government by avoiding the high cost of institutional care when it is not necessary.”
Following the Olmstead decision, President Bush launched the New Freedom Initiative as one of the first acts of his presidency in February 2001. It is a nationwide effort to remove barriers to community living for people of all ages with disabilities and long-term illnesses so that they can live where they choose and participate in community life.
Today’s announcement will add community transition benefits to services Pennsylvania residents are already getting through in six different home and community based services waivers (HCBS). HCBS waivers are generally designed to help individuals stay in their homes who otherwise would need institutional care because they have physical or mental disabilities. The various Pennsylvania waivers cover residents of all ages with varying disabilities.
“I am pleased to help Pennsylvania expand their efforts to integrate those with disabilities back into their communities, “ said Dr. McClellan. “I encourage other states to add this promising benefit to their waiver programs, and we stand ready to help them do so.”
Medicaid is a state/federal partnership program created in 1965 to provide health care services to certain low-income persons such as children, pregnant women, aged, blind and disabled Americans. Medicaid currently serves over 41 million people. Together, states and the federal government spent $276 billion on the Medicaid program in fiscal 2003.