A new proposal in the U.S. Senate would eliminate a government bias toward placing people with disabilities in institutional rather than community-based settings.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Tuesday he is introducing a bill that would put an end to what’s known as the “institutional bias.”
Current law requires Medicaid to provide nursing home services to people with disabilities, but does not mandate that home and community-based options be offered. As a result, many states have long waiting lists for individuals wishing to obtain services in the community and a Senate report last year found that over 200,000 working-age Americans remain segregated in nursing homes.
Harkin’s proposal dubbed the Community Integration Act would change things by requiring that states deem all individuals who are considered eligible for institutional care to also be eligible for supports in home and community-based settings. What’s more, the bill would prohibit states from making people ineligible for services in the community based on their particular disability.
The bill introduction comes just days after the 15th anniversary of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue. In the case known as Olmstead v. L.C., the court found that unnecessarily segregating individuals with disabilities in institutions is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Studies clearly show that home and community-based care is not only what most people want, but it is also more cost-effective,” Harkin said. “The Community Integration Act honors the Olmstead decision and ensures that states take the steps needed to ensure that all individuals with disabilities are given the opportunity to receive their services and supports in a community-based setting, where they can work, participate in community life and be an integral part of their communities.”