On December 13, the bipartisan EMPOWER Care act (S.2227) was introduced in the Senate by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). If enacted, the EMPOWER Care Act would extend and improve the Money Follows the Person (MFP) Demonstration Project for five years. Individuals across the country waiting for home and community-based (HCBS) would benefit from reauthorizing the MFP project.
The MFP Demonstration Project was first authorized by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 and extended through FY2016 by the Affordable Care Act. The MFP project has provided states with enhanced funding to improve access to HCBS. HCBS provide a wide array of supports and services – like housing and residential services – that individuals with autism use across their lifespan. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia received funding under the project and used it to assist Medicaid recipients to live in the community. Each state can decide how to use the funds, which they have used to expand or enhance HCBS programs, reduce waiting lists and fund housing supports.
The program benefits seniors, people with physical disabilities as well as people with developmental disabilities and serious mental illnesses. Since the program’s beginning, over 75,000 individuals have received HCBS as a result and according to the national project evaluation, participants report significant and lasting improvements in quality of life and community integration. In addition, the MFP project has helped realize over $978 million in reduced Medicaid and Medicare costs by assisting states to provide more cost-effective care.
The MFP project was authorized through 2016 although some states will be able to continue to use their grant funds through 2020. However, without Congressional reauthorization, states will lose access to the enhanced funding which helped them maintain enhanced services.
Autism Speaks recognizes the critical importance of Medicaid-funded HCBS to individuals with autism and their families. We strongly support the EMPOWER Care Act (S.2227) and are asking Senators to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation.
Autism Speaks is dedicated to advocating for a spectrum of solutions, across the lifespan and advocating for increased access to and expanded capacity in HCBS so that all individuals with autism and their families have the lifelong supports they need.