House passes group home fix
Posted January 31, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — The House on Thursday passed a bill that allows patients with mental illness who live in group homes to stay there for the time being.
A glitch in last year's budget law kept those individuals from access a special pot of money that was set aside to make up for the loss of funding for personal care services, such as assistance with eating, bathing or other daily chores.
Federal regulators pushed for changes to Medicaid eligibility requirements to ensure the same standards exist for people no matter where they live, instead of having rules that could steer people toward institutional care. The changes took effect Jan. 1, and group home operators feared the loss of Medicaid funding would force them to shut down.
The House voted 116-0 on House Bill 5, but it's fate in the Senate remains murky. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said Wednesday that he wasn't in a hurry to address the group home issue.
The bill provides a temporary fix through July 1, and lawmakers said they would put a permanent fix in place as part of the budget.
"This is the fix we need," said Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange.
The bill does not address a separate problem for Alzheimer's patients who are living in special care units. Those units are caught between reimbursement rates proposed by the state and what the federal government would allow.
Before the legislative session started, legislative leaders had said the group home bill might address problems with the special care units.
"We're working with the department on the issue," Appropriations Chairman Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said.
Lawmakers may have to address the problem, he said, but if they do that will come later in the session.