Cantwell, Portman Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help People Receive Care in their Homes, Reduce Health Costs

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) have introduced the Ensuring Medicaid Provides Opportunities for Widespread Equity, Resources, and Care Act – or EMPOWER Care Act – to help Medicaid beneficiaries receive long-term services and support in their community or home and help save taxpayer dollars in the process. The bill would renew and expand the Money Follows the Person (MFP) Demonstration Program, which promotes community-based care and services and is as a sterling example of an initiative that improves patient outcomes while saving money for state and federal taxpayers.

The program extended in Cantwell and Portman’s legislation provides states with funding and flexibility to help Medicaid beneficiaries, including the elderly and people with disabilities, transition from institutional settings to home and community-based long-term care settings.

“Helping people access long-term care while staying in their own homes is a win-win: patients prefer it, and it saves money,” said Senator Cantwell. “The EMPOWER Care Act will build on Washington state’s leadership in promoting home- and community-based care, by giving states tools and resources to improve quality of life and reduce health care costs in their Medicaid programs.”

“I’m proud to continue my support for the Money Follows the Person program, by introducing the EMPOWER Care Act.  Money Follows the Person has provided over 10,000 Ohioans with the opportunity receive the care that they need in their homes and communities, and I will continue to fight to ensure that all Ohioans can continue to have a choice in where they seek long-term care support,” said Senator Portman.

As of September 2016, 43 states and the District of Columbia have participated in the MFP Demonstration Program.  As of 2013, the program has saved nearly $1 billion for Medicare and Medicaid and helped over 63,000 individuals receive care at home or in a community-based setting, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

"People with disabilities and older adults simply want the same thing we all want - to live independently and age with dignity. However, far too many people end up in costly nursing homes when they could remain at home if they had access to community-based services," said Joe Caldwell, National Council on Aging Director of Long-term Supports and Services. "The Money Follows the Person program is an integral support states need to help transition more individuals back home. It has improved the lives of over 75,000 individuals with disabilities and older adults and saved the federal government and states nearly a billion dollars. We applaud the bi-partisan leadership of Senators Portman and Cantwell to extend and improve the program."

A documented success for more than two decades, community-based care has produced savings of more than $2.5 billion in Washington state. Through the MFP Demonstration Program specifically, Washington state’s Medicaid program has saved $21 million dollars during a two-year period and assisted 6,700 Medicaid patients transition to community-based care settings, according to data from the Washington state Department of Social and Health Services.

“Money Follows the Person has provided critical tools and supports that have helped people all across Washington State relocate from institutional settings back to the community.  Without this support, many elders and persons with disabilities would remain stuck in facilities, instead of being able to return to the community and regain their independence,” said Lynn Kimball, chair of the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Senator Cantwell was an early champion of “rebalancing” efforts to shift Medicaid beneficiaries to community-based care settings. In the Affordable Care Act, Cantwell championed a provision, the Balancing Incentive Program that provides states with financial incentives to transition their long-term care populations to home- and community-based care services.  Eighteen states have participated in Cantwell’s program and have substantially increased their utilization of home- and community-based long term care.