Industry associations representing senior living providers say they support the federal government’s Monday announcement of the expansion of Medicaid’s Money Follows the Person demonstration program to three more states and two territories. But limits imposed by the program mean that, for now, providers’ participation may be limited as well, they said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that the MFP program will be expanding to three more states — Illinois, Kansas and New Hampshire — and two territories: American Samoa and Puerto Rico. All will be awarded up to $5 million each through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to participate in the MFP program, which is designed to help older adults and people with disabilities receive care in the setting of their choice and reduce unnecessary reliance on institutional care.
The additions mean that 41 states or territories now will participate in MFP, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to more business for assisted living providers.
“While states can use MFP funds to move older adults into assisted living, they have to find an assisted living community that is Medicaid-certified and settings rule compliant,” a LeadingAge spokesperson told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Depending on the state, options may be limited.”
The MFP program first was authorized in 2006 and since 2008 has helped facilitate more than 107,000 transitions out of institutional settings, according to a new report from CMS. In late 2020, a LeadingAge representative told McKnight’s Senior Living that approximately 10% of all MFP participants had moved to an assisted living community from a nursing home.
The percentage could be higher, Argentum said, but the MFP program “practically excludes assisted living communities from participating through misguided rules governing resident rooms, ownership and leasing, and requirements on the number of unrelated residents’ communities can care for.”
“Argentum strongly supports HHS Secretary [Xavier] Becerra’s goal to ‘expand access to home and community-based services’ by expanding seniors’ choices in care. Unfortunately, current HHS policies governing the MFP program actually limit the choice of care for seniors because they block any meaningful participation of senior living communities,” the association told McKnight’s Senior Living in a statement.
“As the nation grows older and more and more citizens age, it is imperative the federal government offer programs to expand options for seniors, not reduce these choices,” Argentum said, calling on the government to eliminate barriers to assisted living’s participation in the MFP program.
The National Center for Assisted Living called on policymakers to “continue to pursue efforts that address ongoing HCBS access issues, such as ensuring adequate Medicaid reimbursement, which will expand long-term coverage options for beneficiaries.”
Overall, though, NCAL said it appreciates “federal officials recognizing the importance of expanding access to home- and community-based services, like assisted living.”
“Seniors and individuals with disabilities should be able to access and receive the best care possible in the most appropriate setting,” the association added.
LeadingAge called the MFP program “long standing and important.”
“LeadingAge supports funding for the program and has long pushed for additional resources so that MFP is extended on a long-term basis. We hope that the demonstration expansion brings us one step closer to that,” the association told McKnight’s Senior Living.