Empower Act Extends Funding for Care at Home

Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wa., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, introduced the Ensuring Medicaid Provides Opportunities for Widespread Equity, Resources and Care Act (EMPOWER Care Act), which renews and expands the Money Follows the Person (MFP) Demonstration Program.

The MFP program, which has seen participation from 43 states and the District of Columbia as of September 2016, promotes transitioning Medicaid beneficiaries from institutional settings to community-based services.

“MFP has been around for quite a while and has helped people stay out of nursing homes,” Bill Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, told Home Health Care News in an email. “It allows great flexibility in using the funds to stay home. Funds can be used to buy care or a microwave if that helps the person stay home.”

Cantwell and Portman’s bill would provide the MFP program $450 million for each of the fiscal years 2018 through 2022. Of that, approximately $400 million of the appropriation will be used directly on federal enhanced matching, which goes to state Medicaid programs to help them move Medicaid beneficiaries from institutional settings to home- and community-based ones, Cantwell’s office told HHCN.

The program was first created in 2005 and became operational in 2008. As of 2013, the program has helped more than 63,000 individuals receive care in a community-based setting or at home, according to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In 2015 alone, the program had actually helped transition more than 11,000 beneficiaries, indicating that it was having increasing success, Portman’s office told HHCN in an email.

MFP also saved almost $1 billion for Medicare and Medicaid, the HHS report indicated.

Funding for the program, however, had expired last year, Portman’s office noted.The program is essentially being reauthorized at its current funding levels, with the goal of maintaining the progress that’s already been seen, according to Cantwell’s office.

However, Cantwell and Portman’s bill does make a change aimed at making MFP more accessible. Currently, a person is eligible after residing in an institutional facility for at least 90 days. EMPOWER changes that to 60 days, to let more patients be eligible for transition services.

Though the MFP program has a generally small effect on provider business, it helps drive care in the home, Dombi said. The support it provides can help individuals avoid nursing home admissions, he noted.

“Such individuals will likely need home health or other home care services thereafter,” he added.

Written by Maggie Flynn

Maggie Flynn on Linkedin
Maggie Flynn
Business reporter at Aging Media Network
When she's not working, Maggie enjoys running, reading, writing and sports, in no particular order. Favorite things include murder mysteries, Lake Michigan and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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