Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Community First Choice Amendment Now Included in Senate Finance Committee Healthcare Legislation!

NCIL alerted our members this week to the importance of supporting the Community First Choice Option as an amendment to the Senate Finance Committee healthcare bill. The amendment was offered by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and accepted by Chairman Max Baucus. This means that it will be included in the modified version of the bill, also known as the “Chairman’s Mark”, which is being debated this week! This is incredible news, as this amendment will advance our efforts to end the institutional bias!

The CFC Option would encourage states to provide Medicaid home and community based attendant services, rather than require them as the Community Choice Act would. The cost of the CFC Option is estimated to be $1 billion over five years. It includes a “sunset provision”, which means that after five years Congress will need to approve keeping the CFC Option in place.

One important feature of the Chairman's Mark language is that the Money Follows the Person program would be modified to move the basic eligibility requirement of six months of institutionalization to only 90 days.

What Will Happen Next:

Since the CFC Option is now part of the Finance Committee’s bill (assuming there are no objections), the amendment does not need to be offered and debated during the ongoing mark-up process. If the Finance Committee passes the bill after mark-up, it will be merged with the bill passed in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Once a final bill is created from the two versions, it will be voted on by the full Senate. Having the CFC Option as a part of Senate Finance Committee mark is a huge step forward, but we still have important work to do.

What to Do Now:

Please contact your Senators and let them know that you support the Community First Choice Option in the Senate Finance Committee bill, and that it is critical that it be kept in the final version approved by the Senate. It is also important to thank those who have made this possible. Senator Baucus (MT) and David Schwartz (from the Senate Finance staff) were crucial in making this happen. NCIL also appreciates the efforts of Senator Schumer (D-NY) for submitting the CFC Option Amendment and Senator Harkin, our Senate champion who has tirelessly fought to eliminate the institutional bias. Call and thank them!

You can call using this toll-free number: 866-324-0787. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request.

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