Biden Plan To Boost Disability Services In Limbo
President Joe Biden’s effort to get people with disabilities off waiting lists by infusing billions into Medicaid home and community-based services looks stalled for the moment, but the plan may soon get new life.
The proposal to inject $400 billion into the community-based services system came as part of Biden’s American Jobs Plan, a wide-ranging infrastructure proposal introduced in March.
At the time, the White House said “these investments will help hundreds of thousands of Americans finally obtain the long-term services and support they need, while creating new jobs and offering caregiving workers a long-overdue raise, stronger benefits, and an opportunity to organize or join a union and collectively bargain.”
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But right from the start, Republicans opposed the home and community-based services plan arguing that it had no place in an infrastructure bill. And, the proposal is missing from a bipartisan infrastructure deal that Biden endorsed this week.
“It is frustrating that an issue that is nonpartisan — because constituents need HCBS in every district, in every state — is getting left out due to semantics,” said Nicole Jorwic, senior director of public policy for The Arc, who noted that the community-based services component continues to poll better than any other part of the American Jobs Plan.
Despite the setback, however, Jorwic and other advocates say they expect that the extra funds for home and community-based services will be included in a budget reconciliation bill that could be passed in the coming months by Democrats alone.
Just this week, Democrats in Congress unveiled legislation to make Biden’s plan a reality. Known as the “Better Care Better Jobs Act,” the bill would offer states a 10 percentage point increase in the matching funds they receive from the federal government for home and community-based services if they meet certain requirements. In addition, it includes incentives for states to strengthen the direct care workforce.
The measure, backers point out, is already co-sponsored by 40 of the nation’s 100 senators.
The legislation cannot come soon enough, said Sarah Meek, senior director of legislative affairs at the American Network of Community Options and Resources, or ANCOR, which represents disability service providers across the nation. She said that workforce shortages before the pandemic meant that providers were often unable to open new lines of service, but those issues have been exacerbated and now some agencies don’t have the staff to continue serving existing clients with disabilities.
“We’re at a breaking point and something like this has to happen,” Meek said.