After living for three years in a nursing home following a stroke, Gail, 78, went through his life savings paying for the nursing home and eventually qualified for Medicaid. He had always wanted to and intended to move back home, but his condition required that he stay in the nursing home. His ex-wife, Sue, and a social worker at the nursing home informed him about a program called “Money Follows the Person” (MFP), which supports efforts to move institutionalized individuals back home.
In 2009, MFP enabled Gail to move into Sue’s house because she is his main care provider. The program allotted $1,500 for home services, modifications to the home in the form of ramps and a handicap accessible bathroom, 16 hours of personal care services each month, and attendance at adult day care each day. Gail’s health has remained steady, he is able to enjoy more of a routine life, and he is able to get the care he needs at home while surrounded by friends and family.
The U.S. Congress authorized the MFP as part of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. MFP was designed to assist states in rebalancing their long-term care systems and help Medicaid enrollees transition out of institutions and back to their communities.
Since 2008 when the first senior moved back home through the MFP program, an increasing number of states have been making stories like Gail’s a reality for seniors and others with disabilities. As of February 2011, 43 states and the District of Columbia participate in the “Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration Program.” The significance of this program for seniors is found in its intention for establishing a strong foundation of person-centered, consumer-directed, and community-based services. Seniors are receiving the services they need in an environment that is more comfortable for their recovery and/or daily living. Ultimately, the service model is no longer provider-driven and institution-based, but rather it is more conducive to successful living because of the personalized approach. (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services).
More recently, with the passing of the Affordable Care Act in March of 2010, the MFP received a boost in funding and a time extension through September 30, 2016. Additionally, the MFP program expanded the eligibility requirements to include anyone who is in an institution for more than 90 consecutive days. The old restriction was anyone who had been institutionalized for six months to two years. The longer an individual has been institutionalized the more likely they are to have relinquished a community residence and it is often more challenging for them to again establish a community residence. Individuals who have been institutionalized for a shorter period of time may still have a home to which they still have access.
States have their own methods for identifying appropriate candidates for the MFP program. Once identified, the individual has access to the designated funds for their case for a period of twelve months and receives assistance in achieving the needed transition services.
After the program is complete, the continuity of care in each state will vary. Generally, MFP participants may be able to access existing waivers. Participants will continue to be served through these waivers as long as they continue to meet the eligibility criteria. Therefore, there will not be a lapse in services for MFP demonstration participants. Check with your state on the plans the Medicaid office has in place for the post-demonstration period.
Challenges that Affect the Program
While each state handles their grant money from the MFP program differently, each is working to gain foothold in providing opportunities for their institutionalized citizens to regain status as community members. Implementing a MFP program involves comprehensive and extensive planning at the state level as well as collaboration with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The two main challenges to the success of the program continue to be available housing and accessibility of community service providers.
Housing – The number of residential units available for Medicaid dependents is limited in any case, and states recognize the squeeze that the MFP program places on this issue. More and more states have launched a concerted effort in conjunction with other government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to increase their chances of creating and locating safe and affordable housing arrangements.
Examples of what states are doing specifically to address this problem include: Ohio has a housing specialist under the MFP umbrella whose job it is to build partnerships with housing officials. Michigan has 26 housing coordinators throughout the state who identify housing opportunities for MFP recipients (www.kff.org).
Community services – Already stretched thin, service providers who can provide Medicaid supported home- and community-based services (HCBS) are difficult to find. MFP aligns more individuals with service providers, but without enough service providers, the MFP program recipients may not have access to these services. States are working hard to develop HCBS services using MFP dollars because community services are typically more cost-effective compared to institutional care when measured on a per-person basis.
Examples of the most commonly expanded services that states are employing are: case management to coordinate transition; help with home modifications; and one-time housing expenses such as security deposits, use of assistive technology, and transportation (Kaiser Family Foundation). North Dakota has developed a 24-hour back-up nursing service.
All of these efforts are to create more opportunity for community-based service providers that will support the long-term care of seniors and people with disabilities in their homes by providing the care they need.
Successes for Seniors Now and Long-Term
Each year, the numbers of participants transitioning increases as solutions to barriers are identified and significant technical assistance helps states meet transition goals. As of December 2010, almost 12,000 individuals returned to the community as a result of these demonstration programs, with a reinstitutionalization rate of only about 3–4 percent.
The infrastructure that is creating avenues to affordable housing and HCBS continues to be strengthened through plans customized at the state level to provide support for seniors even after MFP is slated to end. This infrastructure is required if states plan to successfully extend the opportunity of transitioning institutionalized individuals for the long-term.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “MFP is likely to continue to help states reorient their long-term services and support systems toward more community-based care. This program in conjunction with other ACA Medicaid policy options has the potential to expand Medicaid home and community-based services for many more seniors and persons with disabilities who desire to live in the community.” Kaiser Family Foundation expects this trend to extend beyond the life of the MFP program demonstration and have a positive long-term impact for seniors.
To find out if you are eligible and to apply for MFP, contact the Department of Social Services or related Medicaid office in your state. To get to your state’s official website, most states follow the website address pattern of www.insertnameofyourstate.gov, i.e. www.colorado.gov.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: