Six Days to Plan the Move

New rules would make it harder to get out of nursing home Toni Mitchell, a woman with multiple disabilities, is […]

New rules would make it harder to get out of nursing home

Toni Mitchell, a woman with multiple disabilities, is again living in her own St. Paul home after spending several months in a nursing home. Last fall, she was able to move back to her home with the assistance of MCIL’s (Metropolitan Center for Independent Living) Nursing Home Relocation Program. These relocation services were paid for with funds from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). Without that help, Mitchell, who receives MA, would probably still be in the nursing home.

Indeed, if proposed rule changes go into effect, it will soon be much harder for people like Toni to get out of nursing homes. CMS currently funds 180 days of relocation services, paying someone to help you with the many details of relocating to community living. Under the new rules, most consumers would only have 60 days of paid assistance. Bottom line: many would not be able to get out of the nursing home at all. Eva Hansen, manager of MCIL’s relocation program, estimates that 70% or more of relocation cases take longer than 60 days.

Currently, 180 consecutive days of relocation coordination are allowed. However, since this time period includes holidays, weekends and non-work days, the available time for each relocation is closer to 130 days. Because of limited housing availability, and the need to arrange for community-based services and paper work, 180 (or 130) days are often not enough.

CMS has now issued an “interim final rule” that reduces the 180 days to 60 days for consumers who have been in nursing homes for more than 180 days. Moreover, if a consumer has been in a nursing home less than 180 days, the allowed time for relocation is 14 days. These proposed changes place a severe limitation on the ability to assist individuals with disabilities in their desire to relocate from nursing homes and other institutional settings.

Had the proposed changes been in effect in 2007, Mitchell would probably still be in the nursing home. If these changes take effect, hundreds of Minnesota nursing home residents will not be able to move back to the community.

The author is on staff at MCIL and can be reached at 651-603-2026 or annr@mcil-mn.org