States will have an additional year to use federal American Rescue Plan funds to expand home- and community-based services for Medicaid beneficiaries, the federal government announced Friday.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began notifying states through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that they now have an additional year — through March 31, 2025 — to use ARP funds to enhance, expand and strengthen HCBS for Medicaid recipients who need long-term services and supports. 

Argentum Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Maggie Elehwany said the organization supports the HCBS extension, considering senior living communities are the “home of choice” for seniors across the country, and “they deserve the choice of receiving services within their home.”

“Senior living can take the form of assisted living, independent living, memory care and other settings, but all have the same common theme, which is these communities are the personal home of residents,” Elehwany said. “Argentum is working with our state partners to ensure that HCBS resources are available to these communities and to expand options for seniors.”

A spokeswoman from the National Center for Assisted Living said that the organization was pleased to see CMS extend states’ access to ARP funding for HCBS.

“With one in six assisted living residents relying on Medicaid for their daily care, we appreciate federal officials recognizing the importance of expanding access to home- and community-based services, like assisted living,” the spokeswoman told McKnight’s Senior Living.

CMS also relaxed HCBS spending reporting requirements, requiring reports semi-annually rather than quarterly. 

“With this extension, we are addressing states’ concerns, giving states the time and resources to strengthen connections to care at home and in communities,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a statement. 

The ARP provided states with a temporary 10 percentage point increase to the federal medical assistance percentage for certain Medicaid HCBS expenditures. States originally had a three-year period — April 1, 2021, through March 31, 2024 — to use the available state funds to address existing HCBS workforce and structural issues. Funds also can be used to address HCBS waitlists. 

HHS said the additional year of spending will “facilitate high quality, cost-effective, person-centered services for people with Medicaid.” 

A Jan. 6 final rule for the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds codified that senior living communities were eligible for funds under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. 

Eligible uses for funding under the public health threat include vaccination programs, testing programs, monitoring, equipment, personal protective equipment and medical supplies, support for isolation and quarantine, and ventilation systems.

Very few awards through ARPA have gone to assisted living communities from states, however. But Pennsylvania awarded ARPA dollars to assisted living communities and personal care homes; Texas directed its ARPA dollars toward assisted living and other long-term care workforce development; Montana provided aid to state Medicaid and child care programs, including for assisted living workers; Minnesota funneled dollars into a certified nursing assistant training program for long-term care; and New Jersey spent money to improve and expand HCBS, including a rate boost for assisted living providers.

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