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News 5 Investigates: Taxpayers footing the bill to put people in nursing homes who don’t need to be there

A federal bill has just been reintroduced in Washington D.C. to address an issue News 5 Investigates has called attention to over and over again in recent years.

We uncovered taxpayers are footing the bill to put people in nursing homes who don’t need to be there.

Lawmakers are now calling for it to stop.

It has been a common practice for decades to move people with disabilities into nursing homes, even though some of those people are capable of living in the community with a little bit of help.

There is a new push to force health insurance companies, including Medicaid to change the way they do business.

It was a packed house inside the Colorado Springs Independence Center as people with disabilities and those who work with them watched members of Congress re-introduce the Disability Integration Act, also known as the DIA bill.

“We need support, not just faces,” Charles Orthwein said.

He was one of two dozen people who showed up to express his support for the DIA bill which never made it out of committee last session.

The bill now has bipartisan support.

“I saw people on the screen (live video feed) that I never knew would even support something like this,” Orthwein said.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who recently came under fire after a handful of disability advocates were arrested after refusing to leave during a protest at his Denver office.

If passed, the Disability Integration Act would accomplish the following:

-Insurance providers would be required to cover community-based healthcare services for people with disabilities as an alternative to institutionalization

-A person with a disability or their power of attorney will have the ability to choose between covered health care expenses in a nursing home or at-home care

-State and local governments would be required to work with housing to create affordable, accessible housing units

“The country is making it a public policy that you can’t put people in a nursing home when there are other ways for them to live independently in the community,” Patricia Yeager, the CEO of The Independence Center said.

Yeager is a strong advocate for keeping people out of nursing home facilities.

“You can’t go to work from a nursing home,” Yeager said. “You can’t get out of a nursing home. Your life is programmed for their convenience, not yours. That’s not living.”

Medicaid, funded with tax dollars will not automatically pay for at-home care services, but it does cover nursing home costs.

Increasing the availability of at-home care has been a topic profiled in previous News 5 reports. There are ways that family members in Colorado who act as caregivers can get reimbursed for their time. One program previously featured centered around the Veterans in Charge initiative.

To find out about various self-directed care programs available to Colorado residents with disabilities, you can call The Independence Center at 719-471-8181.

According to Yeager, it costs roughly $7,000/month per person to put someone in a nursing home.

Under the DIA Bill, if a person with a disability can receive the same health care services at home, Medicaid (and other insurance providers) would now be required to cover those costs.

Yeager says the health care treatment and costs outside of a nursing home can be reduced by as much as 50-percent each month (for an approximated cost of $3,500/mo per person).

“The State of Colorado and federal government has two choices,” Yeager said. “They can either pay for the (at-home) services or they can put that person in a nursing home.”

You can read more about the Disability Integration Act here.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin).

News 5 Investigates: Taxpayers footing the bill to put people in nursing homes who don’t need to be there 

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