California to eliminate Medicaid waiting lists with assisted living waiver

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In an effort to eliminate waiting lists, California’s Medicaid program is adding an additional 7,000 slots to its assisted living waiver program through 2024.

The Federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services of January approved a home and community program modified assisted living waiver at the request of the California Department of Health Care Services. The approval is retroactive to July 1, 2021 and runs until February 28, 2024.

Assisted Living Waiver Offer Medi-Cal eligible beneficiaries choosing to reside in an assisted living facility as an alternative to long-term placement in a nursing care facility. The purpose of the waiver is to move eligible seniors and persons with disabilities from a nursing care facility to a community home-type setting in residential care facilities, adult care facilities, or residential subsidized public.

California Assisted Living Association President and CEO Sally Michael said eliminating Medicaid waiting lists will allow more people to receive care in the proper setting. She added that CALA also supports previous efforts to increase the reimbursement rate to reflect the increase in the minimum wage.

As of November 2021, 5,790 people were enrolled in California’s Assisted Living Waiver Program, and there were 6,559 on waiting list.

The California Department of Health Services intends to fund the expansion of the assisted living exemption through the enhanced percentage of federal medical assistance available under the American Rescue Plan Act.

Congress provided states with temporary enhanced federal funds for Medicaid HCBS through the American Rescue Plan Act, passed in March 2021. ARPA included $195.3 billion that state governments could use at their discretion . Dollars have maximum flexibility, with states encouraged to direct funding for COVID-19 mitigation efforts and support industries hardest hit by the crisis.

Some states have used ARPA funding to provide relief to the retirement home sector, including Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey and North Carolina.

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