Following years of uncertainty, federal lawmakers are giving new life to a popular Medicaid program that moves people with disabilities from institutions into the community.

Money Follows the Person has been renewed for three years under legislation approved in late December. The Medicaid program gives states extra funds to provide employment, housing and other services to help people transition from nursing homes and other institutions to homes in the community.

The development caps off a tumultuous few years for the program. Money Follows the Person officially expired in 2016 and Congress has approved eight short-term extensions — including one as brief as seven days — in order to keep it alive since then. However, the uncertainty led many states to stop making transitions and shutter their programs as money ran out.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The renewal, which came as part of a broader government spending bill, should bring some stability to the effort by committing $450 million annually to the program through September 2023. What’s more, lawmakers included tweaks to allow all states to participate and to shorten the amount of time a person would have to stay at an institution before they qualify to transition to the community from 90 days to 60 days, according to Nicole Jorwic, senior director of public policy at The Arc.

“While we were pushing for permanence, three years of funding available to all states, not just those with existing programs, will be very helpful in the face of the pandemic to move people with disabilities out of large congregate settings like nursing homes and institutions and back into their homes and communities,” Jorwic said.

A recent report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicates that between 2008 and 2019 Money Follows the Person helped 101,540 people leave institutions for community-based settings.

In addition to renewing Money Follows the Person, the federal spending bill also increased funding for special education by $186 million, allocated $25 million extra for housing for people with disabilities and added $35 million for the Administration on Community Living, among other changes for the 2021 fiscal year.