US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

It’s Time to Update Disability Laws to Promote Better Community-Based Care

Thursday, June 21, 2012Joe Brenckle 202-224-2465

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a hearing today on addressing the importance of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Olmstead, which held that individuals with disabilities are entitled to community-based long-term care services where appropriate, Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Ranking Member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said it’s time to update disability laws to promote better aligned/more comprehensive community-based care for people with disabilities. Enzi said that the Olmstead ruling significantly helped to reshape years of health care policy in which more costly institutional care was the norm.  He said it is important to know what is working and what needs to be improved to ensure that all the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act are met.

“More important than any bureaucracy, the Olmstead decision is about helping people so they can live where they want to live,” said Senator Enzi.  “Long-term care is very expensive and there are many Americans who do not have the resources necessary to pay out of pocket for long-term care in an institution.”

Senator Enzi noted that in speaking with seniors from his home state of Wyoming who need long-term care, he often hears that many want to stay in the community rather than live in a nursing home or other institutions.  In response, there has been an increased transition from institutional care to home-and-community-based care settings.

“Though it is a positive development for individuals with disabilities, there are issues that need to be examined going forward,” Senator Enzi said.  “Rather than maintaining support for home- and community-based care within a centralized, federal bureaucracy like Medicaid, we should focus on person-centered solutions that preserve flexibility for state and local programs to meet the needs of their individual disabled populations.  We also need to listen to states concerned of state budget shortfalls and local conditions that prevent immediate compliance.  We need to move ‘beyond’ Olmstead to better meet the needs in which all Americans can access community services and receive the support they need to lead more rewarding and fulfilling lives in the community.”

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