ROMNEY EXPANDS CARE OPTIONS FOR SENIORS, DISABLED
Governor Mitt Romney signed legislation today that will provide low-income elders and disabled individuals more options to live longer in settings they prefer, such as their homes and communities, rather than relying exclusively on nursing homes.
The "Equal Choices" bill is expected to save about $134 million over the next five years, as community-based services are less costly than nursing facility based care.
"This will provide opportunities for adults who overwhelmingly want to age gracefully in settings in which they are comfortable," said Romney. "Until now, they've had far too few options."
The legislation provides pre-admission counseling for all MassHealth members and private payers seeking admission to a long-term care facility. It also includes an assessment of an individual's ability to reside in non-institutional settings.
MassHealth currently spends about $1.6 billion per year to care for about 32,000 individuals, or 70 percent of all residents in nursing facilities each day. MassHealth pays approximately $52,000 per year for each nursing home resident. The Equal Choices law permits much greater flexibility to redeploy that money to care for individuals in a home or community setting. Current services include home care, personal care attendants, private duty nursing, chronic home health, day habilitation, adult day health care, care management, adult foster care, medical transportation and transition services.
"This new Equal Choices' law is an important civil rights milestone for the elderly and individuals with disabilities throughout Massachusetts," said Al Norman, Executive Director of Mass Home Care. "This law says that the people with disabilities are capable and worthy of participating in the full measure of community life."
"Other states have already increased the use of home-and community-based services while preserving high quality nursing homes for those with greater needs," said legislative co-sponsor Senator Tucker. "This legislation will set Massachusetts on the same course."
"It is a win-win situation when we create programs that not only give people what they want, but also produce significant savings," said Health and Human Services Secretary Timothy Murphy.
"Equal Choices is a strong witness to the Commonwealth's commitment to elders and the disabled," said Elder Affairs Secretary Jennifer Davis Carey. "It furthers the governor's community-first policy of empowering elders to age with dignity, and the disabled to live independently, in their communities through access to community-based supports, choices and care."
MassHealth has already filed a concept paper with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) which lays the foundation of reform. The law states that MassHealth must file a waiver application by October 1 seeking to increase individual income and asset eligibility levels from $816 per month to $1,715 per month and $2,000 to $10,000, respectively.
"Under previous rules, Medicaid did not pay for community supports until a person was so fragile that a nursing facility was their only option," said Medicaid Director Beth Waldman. "We will now have flexibility to get more services to more people before it's too late."