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Dingell, Upton, Guthrie Lead Introduction of Bipartisan Health Bills

Washington, February 25, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Fred Upton (R-MI), and Brett Guthrie (R-KY) introduced two health bills that make it easier for seniors and the disabled to receive care in their preferred setting without facing bankruptcy or significant financial hardship.

Dingell and Guthrie introduced the Ensuring Medicaid Provides Opportunities for Widespread Equity, Resources (EMPOWER) and Care Act, which will help certain Medicaid beneficiaries receive long-term care in their homes or communities if they voluntarily choose this setting. The bipartisan EMPOWER Care Act reauthorizes the federal Money Follows the Person (MFP) demonstration program for five years. This program allows certain Medicaid users, such as seniors and individuals with disabilities, to transition from a nursing home or institutional care back to their home. Since the MFP program was created over a decade ago, it has successfully helped over 88,000 individuals receive care in their own homes. The MFP program does not require people to leave institutional care; rather, it allows individuals who choose to go home to do so.

Additionally, Dingell and Upton introduced bipartisan legislation to extend financial protections to seniors who receive long-term care in their home or a community setting. In an effort to erase the institutional bias that has led seniors to choose more costly nursing homes over impoverishment, the bipartisan Protecting Married Seniors from Impoverishment Act permanently extends spousal impoverishment protections for Medicaid beneficiaries receiving long-term care in a home or community care setting.

“The long-term care system in this country is broken. Seniors, families, and caregivers are often desperate, stressed, and don’t know where to turn,” said Dingell. “The Money Follows the Person program and spousal impoverishment protections have shown they can create better outcomes for people receiving long-term care in the home or in the community. These proposals have strong bipartisan support and I hope the House passes them quickly. I understand the challenges better than many.” 

“Our seniors are some of our most vulnerable citizens, and we need to ensure they and their families have the financial protections they deserve to have the quality of life they deserve,” said Upton. “I’m proud to work with Representatives Dingell and Guthrie on this bipartisan legislation that will do exactly that.”

“The EMPOWER Care Act will do just that: Empower people with disabilities to decide where to receive care. I was proud to join Representatives Dingell and Upton to introduce this bipartisan bill to extend the Money Follows the Person program, which has already helped hundreds of people make the transition from a nursing home or facility to receiving care in their own home and communities. 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. I look forward to seeing this bill pass in the House,” said Guthrie.

In addition to having bipartisan support in Congress, the EMPOWER Care Act the Protecting Married Seniors from Impoverishment Act are endorsed by numerous stakeholder groups.

“This important legislation will ensure that individuals who could be helped by MFP to live in their homes and communities will not be forced into an institution instead, and it’s for that reason that we will be proud to advocate for its passage,” said David J. Totaro, Chairman, Partnership for Medicaid Home-Based Care.

“The Money Follows the Person Program has had immeasurable impact on our ability to transition individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities out of institutions and into the community,” said National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS) Executive Director Mary Lee Fay. “Along with providing much-needed enhanced resources to build successful supports around individuals moving into community settings, MFP also provides rebalancing funds that states have used to transform their systems to make it easier for people to get high quality long-term supports and services in the setting of their choice. Through these funds, states have learned a great deal about how to ensure successful transitions, and have eliminated many policy barriers to community living.”

“For older adults and people with disabilities wanting to live at home with dignity and independence, federal Medicaid programs like Money Follows the Person and spousal impoverishment protections are essential,” said Howard Bedlin, National Council on Aging Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy. “The Money Follows the Person program helps people move out of institutions and back home, while spousal protections keep older couples together, reducing unnecessary nursing home placement. Every community across this country has someone who would benefit from one of these important safeguards. That’s why we strongly support Rep. Dingell’s bipartisan proposals making the spousal impoverishment protection permanent and extending Money Follows the Person for five more years.”

“The Jewish Federations of North America, which represents one of the most expansive health care, aging, and human services networks in the country, congratulates Representatives Dingell and Guthrie for their leadership in introducing the EMPOWER Care Act to extend Medicaid’s Money Follows the Person program. MFP has helped more than 80,000 older adults and people with disabilities lead more independent, engaged, and productive lives. “This bipartisan legislation empowers people to return to live in their communities with appropriate supports if they choose,” said William C. Daroff, Senior Vice President for Public Policy & Director of JFNA’s Washington Office. “We applaud these two champions for their long-standing and tireless commitment to improving the lives of older adults and people with disabilities.”

“Money Follows the Person has been one of the most effective disability rights programs of the twenty-first century. It offers people with disabilities a meaningful alternative to institutionalization and helps safeguard their autonomy, liberty and self-determination. We hope reauthorization of this vital program will be swift and sure, ” said Vania Leveille, Senior Legislative Counsel from the ACLU.

“As a national organization, LeadingAge has consistently supported federal law establishing and continuing protections against impoverishment for all spouses of people who need Medicaid LTSS. We continue to do so, because we believe that spouses, providers and the Medicaid program will benefit from the certainty that this legislation will provide. Ensuring permanent protections for Medicaid recipients of HCBS against spousal impoverishment is crucial to the well-being of older adult recipients of HCBS and those who care for them,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO, LeadingAge. “The positive impact of the Money Follows the Person Program is indisputable. This policy enables older adults to  live in care settings of their choice and also sensibly helps states to use federal monies to pay for the providers identified as best-suited to care for an individual, based on need. We support this legislation and urge Congress to do the same by extending the MFP program.”  

“The Arc of the United States is grateful to Representatives Dingell and Guthrie for introducing the EMPOWER Care Act. This bill will fund desperately needed transitions for people with  disabilities and Aging Americans out of institutions and back to their communities. The bill also creates important flexibility for states to modernize their systems with a focus on home and community-based services,” said Nicole Jorwic, Director of Rights Policy, The Arc of the United States

“We often take for granted the ability to wake up each morning in our own home. Sadly, too many individuals who require assistance with daily activities risk unnecessary placement in an institution despite their wishes to stay at home with their families. That’s why we are extremely thankful for the paired introduction of legislation to extend Money Follows the Person and to guarantee that Medicaid’s spousal impoverishment protections applies to home and community-based services,” said NAELA President Michael J. Amoruso, Esq., CAP, Fellow. 

“Money Follows the Person has been transformative for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in their quest to transition to true community living,” said ANCOR CEO Barbara Merrill. “Within our 1,600-member community of providers and beyond, MFP has been a key ingredient in supporting individuals’ ability to live in environments appropriate for their support needs, and we applaud Representatives Guthrie and Dingell for pioneering legislation to extend MFP’s legacy well into the future.”

“Lutheran Services in America would like to thank Reps. Guthrie and Dingell for introducing the EMPOWER Care Act to reauthorize the Money Follows the Person Medicaid Demonstration Program (MFP) for five years. Lutheran Services in America strongly supports MFP, a program that has shown resounding success in transitioning over 80,000 seniors and people with disabilities from institutional settings into the community. Studies of the program show that it has produced significant cost savings, while improving quality of life outcomes for program participants. Lutheran Services in America, which leads one of the largest health and human services networks in the U.S. with over $22 billion in annual revenue, is made up of over 300 Lutheran social ministry organizations that touch the lives of 1 in 50 Americans each year. Nearly three-quarters of our member organizations provide services to seniors and people with disabilities. We applaud the leadership that Reps. Guthrie and Dingell have shown in supporting this incredibly valuable program, ” said Lutheran Services in America CEO Charlotte Haberaecker.

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