Stat News reported that TrumpCare may cut a national initiative to help patients leave nursing homes and regain their independence — which has saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.  The Money Follows the Person program, which uses both federal and state Medicaid dollars, helps patients who are leaving nursing homes buy their own furniture and pay the security deposit on an apartment. It even covers an initial trip to the grocery store.

Launched in 2007, the Money Follows the Person initiative has distributed $4 billion over the past decade to help agencies in 43 states and D.C. test alternatives to institutionalization. Federal grants cover all home- and community-based services for the first year following a patient’s transition. Then state Medicaid funding takes over.

Even if a patient needs regular visits from health aides, the cost is often far less than a nursing home would charge.  A report published this spring by Mathematica Policy Research, which has a federal contract to evaluate the program, found it saved taxpayers $978 million in just its first six years, through 2013. Through the end of 2015, the program had moved more than 63,000 longtime nursing home residents into independent living.

The grants also cover visits from home health aides so patients with ongoing medical needs can get care. And they support life skills training which teaches students to use public computers to look for jobs and helps them set up email accounts, in some cases for the first time in their lives.

It’s exactly that kind of home-based care that could be first in line for cuts if the Republican plans pass, policy analysts say.  States are required to cover nursing home care through Medicaid, but services to help patients transition to independent living are optional. Advocates for independent living say that such cuts could cause real harm to people with disabilities.

“If Medicaid is cut or capped, we know that home- and community-based services will be the first to go, and that will leave many, many people with disabilities unable to live in the community. It will force us back into nursing homes,” said Cara Liebowitz, who was among of group of advocates at a recent protest outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office.

 

 

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