HARKIN FLOOR STATEMENT ON S. 528, THE MONEY FOLLOWS THE PERSON ACT OF 2005
Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, today I, along with Senator SMITH, introduce the Money Follows the Person Act of 2005.
This legislation is needed to truly bring people with disabilities into the mainstream of society and provide equal opportunity for employment and community activities.
In order to work or live in their own homes, Americans with disabilities need access to community-based services and supports. Unfortunately, under current Federal Medicaid policy, the deck is stacked in favor of living in an institution. The purpose of this bill is to level the playing field and give eligible individuals equal access to community-based services and supports.
Under our legislation, the Medicaid money paid by states and the Federal government would follow the person with a Disability from an institution into the community. This legislation provides 100 percent Federal reimbursement for the community services that an individual needs during the first year that they move out of an institution or nursing home. By fully reimbursing the states, it gives them some additional resources to allow people with disabilities to choose to live in the community.
President Bush first proposed the Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Initiative in his FY '04 budget and indicated that the demonstration project would provide full Federal reimbursement for community services for the first year that an individual moves out of an institution or nursing home.
Senator SMITH and I have worked with the disability community and others in drafting this legislation, and we look forward to working with the Administration and our colleagues to enact the Money Follows the Person concept into law.
We have a Medicaid system in this country that is spending approximately two-thirds of its dollars on institutional care and approximately one-third on community services.
This bill is an important step toward switching those numbers around.
It is shameful that our federal dollars are being spent to segregate people, not integrate them. It has been 15 years since we passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which said "no" to segregation. But our Medicaid program says "yes" and we need to change it. This is the next civil rights battle. If we really meant what we said in the ADA in 1990, we should enact this legislation.
The civil right of a person with a disability to be integrated into his or her community should not depend on his or her address. In Olmstead v. LC, the Supreme Court recognized that needless institutionalization is a form of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
We in Congress have a responsibility to help States meet their obligations under lmstead. An individual should not be asked to move to another state in order to avoid needless segregation. They also should not be moved away from family and friends because their only choice is an institution.
Federal Medicaid policy should reflect the consensus reached in the ADA that Americans with disabilities should have equal opportunity to contribute to our communities and participate in our society as full citizens. That means no one has to sacrifice their full participation in society because they need help getting out of the house in the morning or assistance with personal care or some other basic service.
This bill will open the door to full participation by people with disabilities in our neighborhoods, our communities, our workplaces, and our American Dream, and I urge all my colleagues to support us on this issue.