Medicaid officials have agreed to release long-awaited rules for a new program designed to expand community living, caving to pressure after disability advocates blocked all of the entrances to their building.
The move comes after members of the disability rights group ADAPT protested outside the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Washington headquarters on Wednesday, demanding that federal officials release regulations governing the new Community First Choice Option.
The program, established under the Affordable Care Act, allows states the option to receive increased federal matching funds to support community living if they agree to eliminate caps on the number of individuals who can live in the community.
Under the health care law, regulations for the Community First Choice Option were supposed to be made available by October 2011. To date, however, the rules have yet to be published.
That left states interested in partaking in the program in limbo, since they did not yet know exactly how the program would be run, advocates said.
After months of calling, faxing, emailing and letter writing asking for the regulations to be published, members of ADAPT took to the streets Wednesday, physically blocking all of the entrances to the Department of Health and Human Services’ building. Their action won the group a meeting with the federal Medicaid director, Cindy Mann, who told the advocates she was sending the final regulations to the Federal Register.
The rules are expected to be published and available to the public later this week, according to federal Medicaid officials who said that the delayed release was due to a “huge number of comments” that were received when the proposed rules were made available for public comment last year.
“This is a major policy and advocacy victory for disability rights,” said Bruce Darling, a member of ADAPT from Rochester, N.Y. “The release of the regulations means we will now have to work state by state to ensure that every person with a disability has the same access to community living as everyone else.”
Three states — Alaska, Rhode Island and Washington — said in a survey last year that they were planning to participate in the Community First Choice Option.
Officials with ADAPT say that New York and California have also indicated that they plan to move forward with the initiative and other states including Illinois and Montana were waiting to review the regulations before deciding if they will take part.