The Bush administration is now going after poor people who want to get out of nursing homes.
Earlier this month, the Bush administration put forth new restrictions on Medicaid funding.
The new restrictions are in what the government calls “targeted case management.” This area covers people who use various federal programs and who need help coordinating these services.
One group of Medicaid recipients on which this will surely have a severe negative impact are nursing home residents trying to transition into community living support situations. It often takes many hours over many months for counselors and social workers to assist these people with disabilities in performing painstaking tasks like finding affordable housing and tapping into new support programs.
Before the new rules, states could receive federal Medicaid reimbursement for providing targeted case management for people trying to get out of nursing homes for 160 days. But that has been cut back to 60 days and for those who have been institutionalized for less than six months it's now only 14 days.
People with disabilities need a lot of help navigating through the bureaucratic morass when they want to exit nursing homes and live independently. It usually takes a lot more than 60 days. Many are bound to be stuck in institutions as a result of these new restrictions.
Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., sponsored legislation calling for a moratorium on the restrictions until April 2009. On the Senate floor, Mikulski said targeted case management services "help adults and children with complicated problems, people with disabilities, complex medical problems, mental illness and children in foster care… get and coordinate necessary medical, social, and educational services."
Reps. Tom Allen, D-Maine, Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., put forth a similar measure in the House. But any moratorium legislation that passes would have to survive a likely presidential veto.
Meanwhile, the states of Oklahoma, Maryland, Maine and New Jersey have joined in a lawsuit challenging the new restrictions.
When our own federal government reduces the options for poor people stuck in nursing homes, you know there is something seriously wrong in Washington.
Mike Ervin is a Chicago-based writer and a disability-rights activist with ADAPT (www.adapt.org). He can be reached at email@example.com.