Jan. 29, 2002 --
Last Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2002, The Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act, known as MiCASSA, was introduced into Congress as HR 3612 by Rep. Danny K. Davis (D. - IL) and co-sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus, a Republican, also of Illinois. The bill was first introduced five years ago by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Last August, it was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Tom Harkin (D.-IA), Ted Kennedy (D.-MA), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D.-NY), Joseph Biden (D.-DE) and Arlen Specter (R.-PA) as S. 1298.
The bill would allow people eligible for Medicaid "to use their benefits to purchase community supports such as personal attendants," writes Inclusion Daily's Dave Reynolds. "Its passage would signal a radical move from the current system in which most Medicaid funds go to institutions and nursing homes."
Groups are increasingly fighting the continuing trend to put people in institutions. Last Friday, residents of institutions in California filed a lawsuit against the state for not using its Medicaid dollars to allow them to live in the community. They say the state's refusal is a violation of the 1999 Supreme Court Olmstead Decision.(Read coverage of the suit from the San Jose Mercury News at http://www0.mercurycenter.com/premium/local/docs/disabled26a.htm -- there's also a news article at http://www.raggededgemagazine.com/drn/01_02.shtml#355 )
The grassroots disability rights group American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today is one of the main groups behind MiCASSA. "For decades, people with disabilities, both old and young, have wanted alternatives to nursing homes and other institutions when they need long term services," says ADAPT. "Our long-term care system has a heavy institutional bias. Every state that receives Medicaid MUST provide nursing home services, but community based services are optional. Seventy-five percent of Medicaid long-term-care dollars pay for institutional services."
MiCASSA would change this, allowing "dollars to follow the person" who could "choose where they would receive services and supports," says ADAPT. For a good overview of what the bill would do, visit their website at http://www.adapt.org/casaintr.htm
To learn more about the Supreme Court Olmstead decision, go to http://www.accessiblesociety.org/topics/ada/olmsteadoverview.htm
To follow MiCASSA's progress in Congress, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/ and search for HR 3612.