Guthrie tries to preserve funding for Medicaid program that gets beneficiaries out of facilities and into community-based support

Brett Guthrie (Ft. Collins Coloradoan photo)

U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie is working to find money to save a program aimed at moving Medicaid beneficiaries, mainly those with disabilities, out of facilities and into community-based, long-term support services they can get at home.

The “Money Follows the Person” demonstration program got only three months of funding in the latest appropriations bill because of its cost, reports Michele Stein of Inside Health Policy. Guthrie and his Democratic counterpart are co-sponsoring a bill for a five-year extension.

Guthrie is from Bowling Green and represents the Second Congressional District. His role in the issue stems from his top rank among Republicans on the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The demonstration program began in 2007, and was funded by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act through September 2016. “While no additional funding was provided for the demo after September 2016, states could continue to use unspent funds,” Stein reports. “A 2017 evaluation found the program to be popular and said [it] provided strong evidence that beneficiaries’ quality of life improves when transitioned back to the community.”

The evaluation said the program had transitioned 71 older Kentuckians, 137 Kentuckians with physical disabilities, and 90 with intellectual or developmental disabilities. It reduced expenses for all three categories of beneficiaries, but the vast majority of the savings came in the third category.

But the program’s cost is a challenge. Because of that, the Energy and Commerce Committee considered a one-year extension, rather than a five-year extension that had been proposed, and then the partial government shutdown intervened; new committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) “said he didn’t want the program to be collateral damage from the shutdown,” Stein reports.

On Feb. 25, Guthrie and subcommittee Chair Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) introduced a bill to fund the program for five years, drawing endorsements from advocates for the poor and elderly.

“Money Follows the Person has been one of the most effective disability rights programs of the twenty-first century,” said Vania Leveille, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “It offers people with disabilities a meaningful alternative to institutionalization and helps safeguard their autonomy, liberty and self-determination.”

Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, said five-year funding has bipartisan support, and time to get through Congress, Stein reports: “He expressed hope the legislation would pass if lawmakers agree on how to pay for it.”

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