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Bill Would Guarantee Community-Based Services for Some With Disabilities

Advocates say legislation would fulfill expectations of Americans with Disabilities Act

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People with disabilities who need help with basic daily activities could be entitled to long-term services at home or in the community under bipartisan bills introduced Tuesday in the U.S Senate and House of Representatives.

The Disability Integration Act of 2019 would guarantee that eligible people with disabilities are offered services in the community. Those already living in institutions would need to be informed about available options in the community. The measure is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).

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The legislation says that when Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 28 years ago, lawmakers expected that it would ensure that individuals eligible for institutional care would also have a right to get their care in the community. “That expectation has not been fulfilled,” the bill says.

“The progress we have made since President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act is remarkable,” Sensenbrenner says. “Still there is much work to be done to strengthen laws to protect individuals with disabilities.”

Under the bill, state and local governments and insurers that pay for institutional care for people with disabilities would have to offer these individuals long-term services in their homes or communities. The legislation would prevent state and local governments and insurers from discriminatory practices, such as restrictive eligibility criteria, caps on cost, waiting lists and the failure to provide a community-based service.  

Advocates say the bill is a matter of freedom. Passage of this legislation would “mean that disabled and elderly Americans no longer have to move into institutions to get the services we need to live our lives,” says Anita Cameron of ADAPT, a national grassroots organization that supports disability rights. AARP announced its support for this legislation the day it was introduced. 

A similar bill was introduced in the last two Congresses. “The vast majority of older adults want to live independently in their homes and communities,” says Rhonda Richards, senior legislative representative at AARP. “This legislation aims to ensure that older adults and people with disabilities who are in institutions or at risk of institutionalization are indeed able to live in their communities where they want to be.”

Schumer says the Disability Integration Act is “ultimately a civil rights bill. People with disabilities are too often denied the choice to receive at-home care and support services. This bill ensures that would never happen again.”

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