101st Assembly District
Kevin Cahill

Room 557 LOB, Albany, NY 12248 · (518) 455-4436
Governor Clinton Building, One Albany Ave., Suite G-4
Kingston, NY 12401 · (845) 338-9610

For Immediate Release
Date: September 3, 2004
Contact: Kathy Keyser
(845) 338-9610

Assemblymember Cahill's Able Column
Medicaid Waiver Needed to Integrate People with Disabilities

As many of you are aware, New York's disabilities community and its advocates have long been fighting to ensure that New York State comes into compliance with the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision that states that the unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities is unconstitutional and could be considered a violation of a person's civil rights. As Chair of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, I have been working with advocates and individuals with disabilities to provide services to those who need them in the most integrated manner possible. I firmly believe that all New Yorkers have the right to lead independent, successful lives in their own communities.

Our advocacy efforts paid off two years ago when the Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council was created by virtue of Chapter 551 of the Laws of 2002. This Council is currently in the midst of efforts to develop and oversee the implementation of a comprehensive plan to ensure that people of all ages with disabilities receive the services they need in our communities.

Now, New Yorkers with disabilities are on the path towards winning another gigantic victory since both the Assembly and Senate just passed landmark legislation, the Medicaid Waiver bill, that would allow the state to provide services in a home and community based setting to individuals who would otherwise require institutional care. This landmark legislation, A.11798 (Cahill)/S.7715 (Meier), is awaiting delivery to the Governor for his signature.

Provisions of the measure aim to reverse New York's current bias against community-based services by directing the State Department of Health to seek a federal waiver of rules to allow reimbursement for services not covered by the traditional Medicaid program. Such services might include case management, personal care, independent living skills training, environmental accessibility adaptations, community transition, assistive technology, adult day health care, staff for safety assurance, non-medical support needed to maintain independence and respite services. As the Olmstead court said is their right, this waiver will allow New York to serve individuals with disabilities in more integrated settings. As we have said all along, in addition to being the appropriate thing to do, it can be a less expensive alternative to providing more-costly institutional care.

New York State already has Medicaid waiver programs in place that save taxpayers millions of dollars while allowing people with specific disabling conditions to live more independent lives in their own communities. It has been estimated that, should the Governor sign this measure into law, Medicaid expenditures could be cut by more than $25 million in the first year alone and over $380 million could be saved over a five year period by creating a nursing facility transition and diversion Medicaid waiver program in New York.

Our efforts have paid off so far because this legislation passed both houses of the State Legislature with considerable speed. Now we must continue our advocacy efforts by urging the Senate to send this critical measure to the Governor and insist that he sign it into law. I look forward to joining with many of you as we continue to work toward this anticipated victory.

Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill, Chair
New York State Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities