Raleigh, N.C. — The state Senate voted unanimously Thursday for a plan to allow 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 accessing a $39.7 million pot 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 Senate voted 43-0 on House Bill 5, which must return to the House for a final vote before going to Gov. Pat McCrory.
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday amended the bill to allow Alzheimer's patients in special adult care units tap into the pot of money set aside to help facilities deal with the loss of Medicaid funding for personal care services. Alzheimer's patients have seen the number of hours they qualify for help with bathing or meals reduced.
The House passed the bill three weeks ago – a day after returning to session – but the Senate was in no rush to take up the issue.
"The appeals process was going on, and so we knew that no one was going to be kicked out on the street, so to speak," said Sen. Louis Pate, co-chairman of the Senate Health Care Committee. "So, we had a little bit of time to go through and see what was the very best for these residents and for the providers and everyone included."
The bill provides a temporary fix through July 1, and lawmakers have said they would put a permanent fix in place as part of the budget.