Congressmen urge steps to “Modernize Medicaid”

Monday, July 25, 2011

In an op-ed published June 30 in The Hill, two members of Congress urged an increased effort to use Medicaid funding to ensure people with disabilities live in home and community based settings.

“Our continued heavy reliance on outdated and expensive institutions to serve people with disabilities reflects inertia and politics rather than the needs of people with disabilities,” wrote Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash) in the op-ed.

Amid efforts to cut budget deficits at both the federal and state levels, the two congressmen cited a range of statistics portraying the cost-saving potential of deinstitutionalization efforts. In 2009, it cost states on average $137,000 to provide services to an individual with an intellectual disability in an institution, compared to $44,000 in less restricted settings. A recent case in Illionis, put these figures at $192,000 and $32,000, respectively,

In 2009, 17.4 percent of national Medicaid expenditures were directed to services for people in institutions.

“Modernizing Medicaid’s approach to supporting people with disabilities can save money and bring people a better quality of life,” the congressmen stated. “It would also promote compliance with the (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the (Supreme Court’s) Olmstead decision. If Medicaid cuts are not done in a thoughtful manner, however, they will have disastrous consequences and will lead to systemic civil rights violations. “