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Monday, September 17, 2018

Another Step Forward for the EMPOWER Care Act

The Politics of Autism includes an extensive discussion of insurance and  Medicaid services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  

David J. Totaro, Chairman of the Partnership for Medicaid Home-Based Care (PMHC), issued the following statement on the House Energy & Commerce Committee passage of H.R. 3891 and H.R. 5306, two bipartisan measures that would improve the Medicaid program by strengthening access to and the integrity of home and community-based services.

"PMHC is grateful for the bipartisan support that the Committee has provided for H.R. 5306, the Ensuring Medicaid Provides Opportunities for Widespread Equity, Resources, and Care Act (EMPOWER Care Act). Introduced by Representatives Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI), this measure reauthorizes the highly successful Money Follows the Person (MFP) demonstration program.

"The Money Follows the Person program was first authorized in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 with strong bipartisan support. Since that time, MFP has enabled an estimated 75,000 older adults and individuals with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities, to transition from institutional settings back to their homes and communities.

"Unfortunately, MFP's authorization expired over a year ago, and states have been operating through no-cost extensions. Eight states have already run out of MFP grant funds, and it is projected funds will run out for the remaining participants by the end of 2018. As a result, these states are already in the process of scaling back their programs and reducing dedicated staff and resources.

"As amended, the EMPOWER Care Act rectifies this situation by reauthorizing MFP through 2019. In addition, this important legislation improves the MFP program by reducing from 90 to 60 the number of days an individual must be in a nursing home before becoming eligible to transition to their homes or community settings. In addition, the EMPOWER Care Act enhances the reporting and accountability of MFP funding and requires HHS to conduct a best practices evaluation that will include the most effective strategies for transitioning beneficiaries from institutions to their homes or qualified community settings.

"As a result of its attributes, passage of the EMPOWER Care Act will strengthen access and reduce program costs by ensuring that individuals who could be helped by MFP to live in their homes and communities are not instead forced into an institution or to remain segregated in an institution.

"PMHC is also pleased to endorse H.R. 3891, which we believe will strengthen the Medicaid program's ability to protect those served by the program from abusive activity. We are particularly grateful for this legislation's expansion of scope for Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs) so they can better identify, investigate, and prosecute instances of patient abuse, or neglect.

"MFCUs play a vital role in securing the integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness of the Medicaid program. However, MFCUs are currently restricted in their efforts to investigate patient abuse and neglect complaints in certain settings. H.R. 3891 empowers MFCUs to undertake this activity across all settings.

"We believe H.R. 3891's introduction by Representatives Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Peter Welch (D-VT) will do much to strengthen the integrity of the Medicaid program. We also look forward to working with the Committee on additional reforms that PMHC has proposed to protect the individuals who depend on Medicaid services from fraud, abuse, and neglect.

"Thanks to these measures, Medicaid recipients may soon realize strengthened access to high-quality, low-cost, consumer-preferred home and community-based services. We are confident decision makers will achieve improved outcomes and significantly reduced program costs from their efforts, and we look forward to working with lawmakers as they continue their important work to strengthen individuals' access to high-quality, high-value home-based care."

PMHC is comprised of organizations representing home care agencies, associations, MCOs and other payers, and business affiliates who have come together to improve the quality and integrity of Medicaid funded home- and community-based services (HCBS). Recognizing the integral role of home- and community-based care in the Medicaid program, PMHC is dedicated to advancing and supporting public policies that strengthen the Medicaid program for recipients and taxpayers alike.