Renewed Push Underway To Extend Program That Helps People Leave Institutions
Lawmakers are pressing ahead with efforts to renew a federal program that helps people with disabilities move from institutions to community-based settings.
Legislation introduced late last month known as the EMPOWER Care Act would reauthorize Money Follows the Person for five years. The Medicaid program gives states extra dollars to provide employment, housing and other services needed to assist people transitioning from nursing homes and institutions to apartments or group homes.
Money Follows the Person officially expired in 2016. Since that time, states had been using up whatever money they had left for the program, but all states were scheduled to exhaust their funds by the end of 2018. Efforts to renew Money Follows the Person got caught up in a larger government funding debate that resulted in a 35-day partial government shutdown and uncertainty surrounding the future of the program meant that transitions out of institutions slowed.
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In January, Congress approved $112 million for a three-month extension of Money Follows the Person as a holdover while a longer-term plan could be worked out. Now, backers are working to make that happen.
“The EMPOWER Care Act will do just that: Empower people with disabilities to decide where to receive care,” said U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., who introduced the current bill, H.R.1342, along with Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich. “This program does not force patients to leave a facility if they don’t want to. Rather, it allows individuals to decide what is best for them.”
Since 2006, states have received about $3.7 billion to help over 88,000 people transition out of institutions through the Money Follows the Person program.
A Senate version of the bill, S.548, was brought forward by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.