A bipartisan bill introduced Monday in the House of Representatives permanently would extend spousal impoverishment protections for Medicaid beneficiaries receiving long-term care in a home- or community-based setting.

The Protecting Married Seniors from Impoverishment Act, Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Fred Upton (R-MI) said, is “an effort to erase the institutional bias that has led seniors to choose more costly nursing homes over impoverishment.” The bill has bipartisan support, Dingell said, adding that she believes it would result in better outcomes for older adults if passed.

Upton added, “Our seniors are some of our most vulnerable citizens, and we need to ensure they and their families have the financial protections they deserve to have the quality of life they deserve.”

The legislation is endorsed by several stakeholder groups, among them LeadingAge.

“Spousal impoverishment protections would help married assisted living residents who would lose Medicaid eligibility in the absence of federal protections stay where they are,” Brendan Flinn, LeadingAge director of home- and community-based services, told McKnight’s Senior Living.

“As a national organization, LeadingAge has consistently supported federal law establishing and continuing protections against impoverishment for all spouses of people who need Medicaid long-term services and supports,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said. “We continue to do so, because we believe that spouses, providers and the Medicaid program will benefit from the certainty that this legislation will provide. Ensuring permanent protections for Medicaid recipients of HCBS against spousal impoverishment is crucial to the well-being of older adult recipients of HCBS and those who care for them.”

Dingell and Upton also had introduced the act in November during the previous session of Congress. At the time, the National Center for Assisted Living also had expressed support.

“NCAL is pleased to see Reps. Dingell and Upton champion access to long-term care in home- and community-based settings, including assisted living,” NCAL Senior Policy Director Lilly Hummel told McKnight’s Senior Living at the time. “Bringing certainty to spouses, to providers, to the Medicaid program nationwide is needed as more seniors will require long-term care in the coming years.”

Fifteen percent of assisted living residents rely on Medicaid to pay for daily services, according to NCAL.