When Congressional leaders introduced health care reform legislation earlier this summer, long-term care was largely missing. Now advocates are using a new tack to push expanded community-based care into the legislation.

In a meeting with President Barack Obama last Friday, a dozen leaders from the disability community asked the president to make the Community Choice Act a state option within the health care reform bill rather than a mandate.

As initially introduced, the Community Choice Act would mandate that states offer people with disabilities the option to use Medicaid funding to pay for community-based rather than institutional care. Making the legislation a state option, however, would mean that states could choose, but would not be required to enact the principles of the legislation without needing approval from the Department of Health and Human Services.

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“We’d rather have the Community Choice Act as a whole (with the mandate),” said Marty Ford, chair of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, who attended the White House meeting. “But the political reality is that we want to get something so that at least those states that are ready to implement this can go forward.”

Currently, the Community Choice Act is not included in the Senate or House versions of the health care reform bill.

Obama told the group that he would ask members of his health care reform team to meet with them to further discuss the issue in the coming weeks.