Saturday, June 30, 2012

New Medicaid Regulations Are Open to Public Comment

A little over a month ago, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed some new rules for home- and community-based services for people with disabilities, trying to ensure that states do everything they can to make sure that disabled people covered by Medicaid can actually get the services they need in their own homes, or in supported residential settings where they have the same amount of freedom and control over their own lives that they would if they were living on their own.

That's the spirit of the law, anyway. Lots of advocacy groups made up of people whom this law is supposed to benefit have written recommendations for wording that makes sure the letter of the law honors the spirit --- that health-care providers receiving Medicaid funding to give people supportive housing don't just take the money and throw the intended beneficiaries into a group home that reproduces all the restrictions, power dynamics, and other bad things about institutions in a somewhat different setting.

The rule change is open to public comment until Monday; I'd like to add my voice to a chorus of voices emphasizing just how important autonomy and freedom from restriction are. If you have anything to say about it, especially if you've got any concrete ideas or relevant personal experiences, go here, click the big blue "Comment Now!" button, and let loose.

The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network and the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities have both written about this proposed rule change; AIDD's page  is an easy-to-read summary of what the rules entail, while ASAN's page is more of a critique.

Here is the proposed definition of "home and community-based setting":
(i) The setting is integrated in, and facilitates the individual's full access to, the greater community, including opportunities to seek employment and work in competitive integrated settings, engage in community life, control personal resources, and receive services in the community, in the same manner as individuals without disabilities. 
(ii) The setting is selected by the individual from among all available alternatives and is identified in the person-centered service plan. 
(iii) An individual's essential personal rights of privacy, dignity and respect, and freedom from coercion and restraint are protected. 
(iv) Individual initiative, autonomy, and independence in making life choices, including but not limited to, daily activities, physical environment, and with whom to interact are optimized and not regimented. 
(v) Individual choice regarding services and supports, and who provides them, is facilitated. 
(vi) In a provider-owned or controlled residential setting, the following additional conditions must be met. Any modification of the conditions, for example, to address the safety needs of an individual with dementia, must be supported by a specific assessed need and documented in the person-centered service plan: 
  (A) The unit or room is a specific physical place that can be owned, rented or occupied under another legally enforceable agreement by the individual receiving services, and the individual has, at a minimum, the same responsibilities and protections from eviction that tenants have under the landlord tenant law of the State, county, city or other designated entity; 
(B) Each individual has privacy in their sleeping or living unit:         (1) Units have lockable entrance doors, with appropriate staff having keys to doors;         (2) Individuals share units only at the individual's choice; and         (3) Individuals have the freedom to furnish and decorate their sleeping or living units. 
(C) Individuals have the freedom and support to control their own schedules and activities, and have access to food at any time; 
(D) Individuals are able to have visitors of their choosing at any time; and  
(E) The setting is physically accessible to the individual.
They also spell out what a "home and community-based setting is not:
Home and community-based settings do not include the following: 
(i) A nursing facility; 
(ii) An institution for mental diseases; 
(iii) An intermediate care facility for [people with intellectual disabilities] 
(iv) A hospital providing long-term care services; or 
(v) Any other locations that have qualities of an institutional setting, as determined by the Secretary. The Secretary will apply a rebuttable presumption that a setting is not a home and community-based setting, and engage in heightened scrutiny, for any setting that is located in a building that is also a publicly or privately operated facility that provides inpatient or institutional treatment, or in a building on the grounds of, or immediately adjacent to, a public institution, or disability-specific housing complex.
And here is the definition of "person-centered service plan": 
The person-centered service plan must reflect the services and supports that are important for the individual to meet the needs identified through an assessment of functional need, as well as what is important to the individual with regard to preferences for the delivery of such services and supports. Commensurate with the level of need of the individual, and the scope of services and supports available under the State plan HCBS benefit, the plan must: 
(1) Reflect that the setting in which the individual resides is chosen by the individual. 
(2) Reflect the individual's strengths and preferences. 
(3) Reflect clinical and support needs as identified through an assessment of functional need. 
(4) Include individually identified goals and desired outcomes. 
(5) Reflect the services and supports (paid and unpaid) that will assist the individual to achieve identified goals, and the providers of those services and supports, including natural supports. Natural supports cannot supplant needed paid services unless the natural supports are unpaid supports that are provided voluntarily to the individual in lieu of State plan HCBS. 
(6) Reflect risk factors and measures in place to minimize them, including Individualized backup plans. 
(7) Be understandable to the individual receiving services and supports, and the individuals important in supporting him or her. 
(8) Identify the individual and/or entity responsible for monitoring the plan. 
(9) Be finalized and agreed to in writing by the individual and signed by all individuals and providers responsible for its implementation. 
(10) Be distributed to the individual and other people involved in the plan. 
(11) Include those services, the purchase or control of which the individual elects to self-direct, meeting the requirements of [earlier section] of this subpart. 
(12) Prevent the provision of unnecessary or inappropriate care. 
(13) Other requirements as determined by the Secretary. 
... and rules for how the service plan should be drawn up:
Based on the independent assessment required in [earlier section] of this subpart, the State must develop (or approve, if the plan is developed by others) a written service plan jointly with the individual (including, for purposes of this paragraph, the individual and the individual's authorized representative if applicable). The person-centered planning process is driven by the individual. The process: 
(1) Includes people chosen by the individual. 
(2) Provides necessary information and support to ensure that the individual directs the process to the maximum extent possible, and is enabled to make informed choices and decisions. 
(3) Is timely and occurs at times and locations of convenience to the individual. 
(4) Reflects cultural considerations of the individual. 
(5) Includes strategies for solving conflict or disagreement within the process, including clear conflict-of-interest guidelines for all planning procedures. 
(6) Offers choices to the individual regarding the services and supports they receive and from whom. 
(7) Includes a method for the individual to request updates to the plan.
(8) Records the alternative home and community-based settings that were considered by the individual.
(That has got to be the greatest number of time I have had to type the word "individual" on any given day.)

I think this all sounds fairly complete, and airtight, but then I have zero experience actually living in this kind of environment.  

What do you, my readers, think? Do any of you have anything you would add, or change, to the above specifications? Without your input, I'm pretty much going to be echoing ASAN's recommendations in my comment on, but I'll hold off on commenting until, say, tomorrow night or Monday morning to see if I get any additional recommendations from comments here.  

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