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Local Councilman supports Community Choice Act

For City Councilmember Mike Nelson, the federal Community Choice Act is financially prudent, allows people more choice and is an issue with which he’s had personal experience.

If enacted, the measure now being debated in both the House of Representative and the Senate would provide individuals with disabilities and older Americans equal access to home care as an alternative to nursing homes.

“The money should follow the individual, not the facility or provider,” said Nelson, who succeeded in getting the City Council to pass a resolution supporting the federal bill.

“Therefore, long−term service policy should not favor any one setting over the other. Our current system is not neutral, and it does not reflect people’s choices,” he added.

The bill addresses the roughly 1.6 million people who are cared for in nursing homes each year.

Nelson, whose district contains one of the highest senior populations in the city, said that Medicaid funding is biased against the financing of individual care in community and home−based settings.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of individuals with disabilities and older Americans who would prefer to receive care in more integrated settings are currently relegated to living in institutions, he said.

Under the Community Choice Act, individuals eligible for nursing facility services or intermediate care facility services for the mentally retarded could choose for a home health care attendant.

Nelson said numerous studies have indicated that home and community−based services are more cost−effective than institutionalized care and provide a higher degree of consumer satisfaction.

More and more people with disabilities could be thriving, said Nelson.

The country’s long−term service system, funded mainly by Medicare and Medicaid, was created over 40 years ago, and represent medical dollars not originally meant to meet long−term care needs, he added.

Nelson spokesperson Steve Zeltzer said Nelson first became involved in the issue when a constituent came into the office complaining how her elderly parents couldn’t find affordable home−based health care.

Then when Nelson’s late wife, Sheila, became very sick, the councilmember had his own problems finding affordable and quality home health care to take care of her even a few days a week, said Zeltzer.

Both New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and many New York City congressional representatives have co−sponsored the bill, which is now in congressional committee. “The Community Choice Act is going to provide senior citizens and people with disabilities in Brooklyn and across New York with important and valuable options,” Schumer said.

“In addition to nursing homes, those in need of assistance will be able to choose where they receive their care, potentially at a great savings to the states and individuals,” he added.

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