Cantwell, Kohl Introduce Bill to Reform Long-Term Care Services

WASHINGTON, DC – Today U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) announced the introduction of the Home and Community Balancing Incentives Act to reform long-term care systems by offering enhanced federal Medicaid matching rates to states that are willing to implement home- and community-based health care programs.  With the nation’s population aging at a rapid rate, more and more Americans will need long-term care services and support to help them with day-to-day activities.  In recent years, Medicaid payments have shifted from primarily funding nursing home care, to funding more home- and community-based care for older and disabled Americans.

“Home- and community-based services provide people the care they need in non-institutional settings, which, in addition to saving a significant amount of money, allow patients to maintain their independence,” said Cantwell.  “This bill would reform long-term care services by providing states with resources to improve their long-term care delivery systems. If we gave just 5 percent of those who go into nursing homes now the ability to receive care in their own homes and communities, the federal government would see a net savings of more than $10 billion over 5 years.  This significant savings can be achieved while simultaneously providing better care; a truly win-win situation.”

“When it comes to long-term care, one size does not fit all.  The ultimate goal of long-term care should be to allow older or disabled Americans to live as independently as possible.  This bill will help update our current long-term care system order to offer choices tailored to an individual’s needs,” said Senator Kohl, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

The Cantwell-Kohl bill will provide several states with resources and financial incentives to broaden the range of Medicaid services offered to people in their homes and communities, allowing more of them to live as independently as possible while still receiving the care they need.  The legislation will assist states whose budgets are swamped by Medicaid costs, and enable them to expand their range of long-term care services, while also controlling costs. 

Specifically, the Home and Community Balancing Incentives Act would:
• Improve case management to help people stay out of nursing homes;
• Allow consumers to be in charge of their own home care;
• Provide a coordinated system that assists in transitioning seniors and people with disabilities from nursing homes back to the community;
• Create a standardized, state-wide assessment program to monitor home and community based enrollees’ eligibility status;
• Develop a services and information clearinghouse so people can have one, easy to use point-of-contact to learn about their home and community based options;
• Require providers to submit data on the services they provide so agencies and states can create a standardized method for tracking and charging home- and community based-services, and;
• Collect data on home and community-based patient outcomes

In March, Senator Kohl held a hearing of the Special Committee on Aging to call for the inclusion of improvements to long-term care services and supports as part of emerging blueprints for national health reform.  Witnesses called for targeted changes to Medicare and Medicaid, such as those found in the Cantwell-Kohl bill, as well as broader changes in the context of national health care reform discussions.

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