Older adults, people with disabilities, and their family caregivers have been hard hit by COVID 19. As states reel from the pandemic’s human and fiscal toll, policymakers are increasingly looking to home- and community-based services (HCBS) to address the pressing need for alternatives to nursing home care and supporting family caregivers who can help loved ones age in place.
Recent actions signal that the importance of HCBS is gaining traction at the federal level, and may receive significant attention in the coming months:
- The American Rescue Act, passed last month, includes a one-year, 10-point boost in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for HCBS delivered between April, 2021 and March, 2022. The funding must supplement – not supplant – current state expenditures, and can be used for an expansive list of HCBS. These include Medicaid waiver services, but also case management and rehabilitative services, which are often used to support people with serious mental illness. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently held a “listening session” to gather input for guidance that will be issued in the near future.
- The American Jobs Act, released by the White House on March 31, 2021, has been touted by the Biden Administration as an historic opportunity to rebuild America’s infrastructure. Interestingly, a full quarter of the total $1.2 billion proposed expenditure would go to “expanding access to quality, affordable home- or community-based care for aging relatives and people with disabilities.” The plan targets expansion of Medicaid HCBS and would improve wages and conditions for the nation’s direct care workforce, a majority of whom are women of color.
- Also last month, a group of members of Congress – Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – sought input on the HCBS Act of 2021, draft legislation that would make HCBS a mandatory benefit in state Medicaid plans and expand the kinds of services offered, among other changes.
In the short term, states will need to act quickly to develop time-limited strategies to take advantage of the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) enhancement offered by the American Rescue Plan, and be prepared for other funding and policy opportunities as they emerge. States may choose to add enrollees to their existing HCBS programs, expand access by enhancing direct care workforce pay, focus on services to support family caregivers, and/or build on existing programs.
Explore the National Academy for State Health Policy’s (NASHP) State PACE Action Network for a new technical assistance opportunity for states to enhance or expand this home- and community-based services model. NASHP will continue to track these issues, and provide updates on state and federal initiatives that reflect the growing importance of HCBS.