Shaheen, Hassan Urge Inclusion of Home and Community-Based Services Funding for Seniors and People with Disabilities in Future COVID-19 Legislation

July 31, 2020

Key Provisions Would Ensure that 12 Million Americans Maintain or Gain Access to Critical HCBS Services and Supports

(Washington, DC) – With seniors and people with disabilities accounting for a disproportionate percentage of all COVID-19 deaths, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter with a group of Senators urging Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to include key provisions related to Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) in any future COVID-19 relief package. The Senators emphasize the need for expanded access to HCBS as a necessary tool in keeping safe those who are most at-risk for contracting the virus.

“As our country has aged, HCBS has become a key method for making it possible for older adults to age at home in the community. HCBS has also made it possible for people with disabilities to live close to their families and friends, be active members of their communities and live lives as full citizens,” wrote the Senators. “Almost five months into the pandemic, home and community based services are critically unstable. Many of the agencies providing HCBS are at risk of closing because of lack of funds. If services are discontinued, seniors and people with disabilities will be left with a false choice: remain at home without the care they need to live, but safe from the virus, or live in a congregate setting to receive the services necessary to live, but live in fear of contracting COVID-19. No individual should be forced to make this decision.”

In their letter, the Senators recommend investing in Medicaid HCBS and including key provisions from the House-passed HEROES Act in upcoming legislation – namely, those providing states with Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) increases to ensure they can support expanded HCBS. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are almost 800,000 people across the country on wait-lists to receive home-based care and services through Medicaid.

The letter, led by U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), was also signed by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tim Kaine (D-VT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Angus King (I-ME) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Read the letter here.

Senators Shaheen and Hassan have repeatedly fought to ensure that those most at risk have access to the full scope of medical care they need during the COVID-19 crisis. On Wednesday, Shaheen joined U.S. Senators Bennet, Hirono, Harris and Blumenthal to introduce legislation that would increase coverage for uninsured Americans receiving COVID-19-related treatment and vaccines through Medicaid. In May, Shaheen led 33 Senate Democrats, including Senator Hassan, in releasing a proposal to expand health care coverage and affordability during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, Senator Shaheen introduced legislation with Senator Casey (D-PA) that would respond to the increased need for health care during the public health and economic crisis by creating a quicker and more responsive process for supporting state Medicaid programs. It would address fluctuating demand in states for Medicaid by automatically connecting the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) to state unemployment levels, so that additional federal aid would ebb and flow with a state’s economy. 

As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Senator Hassan has previously called for additional support for home and community-based services. In May, Senators Hassan and Joni Ernst (R-IA) requested relief for Medicaid Home and Community Based Services and Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities through the funding provided by Congress in previous COVID-19 relief packages. Senators Hassan and Shaheen also joined Senator Casey in introducing a bill to protect home health workers, promote home and community-based services, and ensure seniors and people with disabilities maintain access to home-based meals and services.