Bipartisan legislation cleared the U.S. Senate this week that would delay until 2020 the start of a controversial electronic visit verification program to document when personal care services are provided to people with disabilities.

The legislation, which was passed by unanimous consent late Tuesday, was approved by the House of Representatives last month. President Donald Trump has 10 days to sign the bill into law.

“I’m thrilled, although I’ll be even more thrilled when it’s signed,” said Charles Carr, chair of the National Council on Independent Living’s EVV Task Force and a legislative liaison for the Disability Policy Consortium.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Electronic visit verification was mandated by Congress in 2016 as part of the 21st Century Cures Act and scheduled to start in January 2019. The intent was to crack down on fraudulent Medicaid billing by requiring in-home care providers to electronically check in and out when performing services.

In addition to the one-year delay, the legislation passed this week requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to hold at least one public meeting by the end of the year to solicit feedback from patients, caregivers and state health officials.

Dan Berland, director of federal policy for the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services, praised lawmakers for heeding concerns about the original time frame.

“This will really help to make sure we’re able to implement EVV in a way that works, that accomplishes the goal of cutting down on fraud and that also does the least to disrupt people’s services and lives,” Berland said.

CMS recently provided information on how states could apply for a one-year extension if they couldn’t meet the original deadline. The legislation passed would allow states to apply for an extension until January 2021 if they can’t meet the new 2020 deadline.

Still, Berland said many states need to secure legislative funding, design a program and solicit bids.

“There’s a lot to do between now and January 1 of 2020,” Berland said. “I think you will see a lot of states will need the good faith exemption.”

States have latitude on how to implement the program, with some using landline telephones, tablets or GPS tracking. However, some disability rights advocates have raised concerns about privacy.

Carr from the National Council on Independent Living said his task force will continue working to have EVV for personal care services stricken from the 21st Century Cures Act because he said it violates the privacy rights of people with disabilities who receive public benefits.

“We’re being tracked like criminals, like we’ve done something illegal,” Carr said. “We pushed so hard for this to give us that year’s time to organize the disability community to have it removed from the Cures Act. It’s going to take a huge grass roots push like we haven’t done in a long time.”

Read more stories like this one. Sign up for Disability Scoop's free email newsletter to get the latest developmental disability news sent straight to your inbox.