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Congress’ latest coronavirus relief proposal could help keep some seniors out of nursing homes

Luis Alvarez | DigitalVision | Getty Images

The House of Representatives’ $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill includes a proposal that could help keep some seniors out of nursing homes.

The bill calls for a 7.5% increase — or about $10 billion — in additional federal Medicaid matching funds for home- and community-based services.

The extra funding will allow states to provide additional home- and community-based care, which could help get more people off waiting lists and prevent them from going to nursing homes.

In addition, the money would also let states increase caregivers’ pay and provide support to family caregivers, as well as protective equipment and training to help prevent Covid-19.

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The coronavirus relief bill was passed by the House on Saturday and moves to the Senate for consideration. Democratic lawmakers are hoping to send the bill to President Joe Biden for final approval next week.

It remains to be seen whether Senate Republicans, who have taken issue with the level of spending in the package, will embrace this proposal. No House Republicans voted for the bill.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, an advocacy group, applauded the inclusion of the aid in the legislation, and credited previous efforts by Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J., for helping to get the change included in the bill.

“Given how dangerous nursing homes have been, nursing home residents having Covid infections, this cries out for home- and community-based care more than ever,” said Dan Adcock, director of government relations and policy at the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

The move is something the advocacy group has been pushing for since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

But it’s been difficult to effect change, in part, due to a bias toward institutional care in the Medicaid program, according to Adcock.

With the change, people who are already in a home- or community-based setting that’s paid for by Medicaid will be able to continue to have a quality of life where their exposure to Covid-19 is minimal, Adcock said.

At the same time, it may give people who are in nursing homes the opportunity to transition to home- or community-based care, he said.

“Most people who need long-term care would prefer to receive it in their own home rather than be put into a nursing home,” Adcock said.

Like all proposals in the House stimulus bill, the change will need to be approved by the Senate in order for it to go through.

“I think it’s likely to be in the final bill that goes to the president’s desk,” Adcock said. “But we’re going to continue to advocate for it in the Senate.”

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