Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Administration Backing Away from Support for Community Choice Act?

After the 2008 presidential campaign, I told you that I would be honest in my critique of the new administration -- giving credit when it's due but also holding the administration accountable. And I'm concerned the White House is backing away from a campaign pledge to support the Community Choice Act. In this post from Sept. 22, 2008, I criticized Sen. McCain for not supporting the Community Choice Act and pointed out that then-Sens. Obama and Biden were co-sponsors.

Medicaid requires states to cover long-term care in insitutions, but does not require states to support people who live in their own homes -- which essentially means government policy favors institutionalization over providing options that allow for more independence.

Disability advocate Michael Volkman, in a May 15 op-ed titled "Give Disabled Choice of Home," explains: "Twenty-seven states provide no community-based assistance, so people like me living in those states are taken from their families and shut away. Many other states restrict services and have long waiting lists to get them. There are people who could live independently with just a few hours of aide service each day for less than $100, and others who need more hours but still could live independently. Instead, they are forced into nursing homes at a cost of hundreds of dollars more for each person for each day."

The bills that make up the Community Choice Act, HR 1670 and S 683, have languished in Congress with little action for 12 years, so disability advocates were encouraged when the Obama-Biden campaign committed to push for its passage. But in a recent meeting with American Disabled For Attended Programs Today (ADAPT), Nancy-Ann DeParle, the administration's health care reform czar, apparently suggested the Community Choice Act might not be part of the health care reform package.

And the White House has changed the disabilities page on its website, removing President Obama's intention to enforce the Community Choice Act. Instead, a new paragraph says, "The President believes that more can be done to encourage states to shift more of their services away from institutions and into the community, which is both cost-effective and humane."

Volkman: "Encouraging states to take the lead doesn't mean they will. If they wanted to, they could have done it years ago."

Here's more from Patricia Bauer's Disability News.
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