|For Immediate Release: January 16, 2008|
Contact: Jodi Seth or Brin Frazier, 202-225-5735
Dingell, Pallone Highlight Committee’s Commitment to Disabled Americans
Washington, DC –The Committee on Energy and Commerce held its first hearing of the year today to examine Medicaid coverage for people with disabilities.
The Subcommittee on Health hearing, entitled “Helping Families with Needed Care: Medicaid’s Critical Role for Americans with Disabilities,” focused on efforts to ensure that people with disabilities can exercise their right to live in the least restrictive environment available and recent legislative and Administrative actions that affect access to community care services.
“One of the challenges we face is how to improve access to community services instead of making nursing homes and institutions the first options for care,” said Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
“We know that those who receive community-based services have an improved quality of life, and are better able to be near family and friends.”
The Medicaid program provides essential funding for millions of Americans living with disabilities, including seniors in nursing homes, children born with birth defects, people struggling with mental illness or intellectual disability and adults whose disabilities occur later in life.
Medicaid is currently the nation’s primary source of funding for the delivery of community-based and long-term services to the disabled. However, funding traditionally favors nursing home care over the range of community-based services available. Witnesses from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Family Voices, ADAPT, the ARC of New Jersey, ResCare and Amerigroup of Texas provided testimony regarding Medicaid’s impact on disabled Americans.
“Over the years, Medicaid has enabled millions of Americans with a wide range of disabilities to live independent lives,” Pallone said.
“However, as America continues to age, we are faced with an impending crisis in long term care. With the introduction of the CLASS Act, the Community Choice Act and the Direct Support Professionals Fairness & Security Act, we are offering a new approach that builds upon our existing safety net system and helps our elderly finance the long term care they need to remain active and productive members of their communities.”
Witnesses and Committee Members also discussed the Administration’s proposed Medicaid rules, which would limit reimbursement to states for rehabilitative and school-based services.
Prior to adjourning in 2007, Congress enacted a moratorium on implementing the rules. The six-month moratorium, which would delay the effective date to June 30, 2008, was included in the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007. The rules, if implemented as proposed, would limit or eliminate transportation and health care services that are essential to disabled Americans.
Chairman Dingell’s full statement below.
Statement of Congressman John D. Dingell, Chairman
Committee on Energy and Commerce
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HEALTH HEARING ENTITLED
“HELPING FAMILIES WITH NEEDED CARE: MEDICAID’S CRITICAL ROLE FOR AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES”
January 16, 2008
Today’s hearing will focus on a critical source of health care for Americans living with disabilities: the Medicaid program. Millions of people with disabilities — frail seniors in nursing homes, children born with birth defects, people struggling with mental illness or intellectual disability, adults whose disabilities occur later in life — depend on Medicaid for needed services, including services not available from other sources of insurance.
Medicaid provides almost 40 percent of all long-term care services delivered in this country and covers nearly half of all nursing home expenditures in the U.S., making it the Nation’s largest single payer of long-term care.
One of the challenges we face is how to improve access to services in the community rather than require admission to nursing homes to receive them. Those who receive community-based services have an improved quality of life, and are better able to be near family and friends. States have taken some steps to improve the availability of community services. The “Money Follows the Person” demonstration, which provides States one year of enhanced funding for each person transitioned back into the community, is a good first step. This has an unfortunate requirement, however, that a person must first live in an institution for six months in order to be eligible for this transition program, which is counter productive to this goal.
The availability of waivers, and the new State option to provide community and home-based services without a waiver, provides critical tools for the transition to community care. But again, the income and resource thresholds often mean that people with disabilities must choose between better-paid employment and the health services that allow them to remain in their community. And yet, tens of thousands of people are on waiting lists for waiver places, nearly 260,000 in 2005, a clear indication of the need to expand these vital programs.
Unfortunately, while States have been making some progress at transitioning individuals back into their communities, the Administration is trying to hold them back rather than forward. It has proposed regulations that will seriously curtail or eliminate the ability of people living with disabilities to receive needed services. For example, limiting transportation services for disabled children who receive health services in schools, and restricting rehabilitation services to those with long-term disabilities because they may never fully recover, is short-sighted and a source of harm for those affected by such regulations.
I thank the witnesses who are here today. Their testimony will detail the challenging task of improving community options for people with disabilities. Medicaid has given us an excellent foundation, but more work is needed to update its provisions. I also welcome our visitors and guests today, who are both present at this hearing or watching this broadcast. We are pleased you are here and I commend your efforts in this worthy endeavor.