Michael F. Easley

The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina Carmen Hooker Odom

North Carolina
Department of Health and Human Services

For Release: IMMEDIATE
Date: May 16, 2007

  Contact: Brad Deen

Federal Grant to Help N.C. Medicaid Provide Independence for many in Institutions

RALEIGH — North Carolina Medicaid has been awarded a federal grant to keep elderly and disabled patients at home and out of institutions.

The $16.9 million award will provide home- and community-based services for more than 550 North Carolinians over five years. The grants, awarded to several states, are part of a federal push to provide viable alternatives to nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals and developmental disability centers.

“This is a positive step in our attempts to support a community-based system that provides quality care in the least restrictive environment for elderly and disabled North Carolinians,” said Dr. William Lawrence, senior deputy director of the N.C. Division of Medical Assistance, which administers the state’s Medicaid program.

Medicaid is the government-funded heath insurance program for low-income Americans. The program’s rules and guidelines have traditionally favored nursing homes and other institutions as a means of providing care to patients who need assistance with daily activities, from personal grooming to cooking.

In recent years, home health services and community-based programs such as adult day health centers have become more available. Many people with conditions that once would have required institutionalization can now remain in their homes yet receive needed assistance.

“There is more evidence than ever that people who need long-term care prefer to remain in their own homes and communities whenever possible,” said Leslie V. Norwalk, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees the two national health care programs.

In announcing the $547 million grant awards to 13 states and the District of Columbia, Norwalk said the program will help North Carolina and other grant recipients “shift Medicaid’s traditional emphasis on institutional care to a system offering greater choices.”

The federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 required Medicaid to remove barriers to non-institutional living. The resulting New Freedom Initiative will move an estimated 14,000 Americans — 552 from North Carolina — from institutions back into their communities over the next five years.

Besides providing a financial incentive for participating states, the federal grant waives some Medicaid regulations and restrictions for transitioning patients. Non-traditional expenses such as moving costs, utility deposits and first and last months’ rent could be covered by Medicaid under the grant.



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Debbie Crane