Senator Harkin Marks the Fifteenth Anniversary of the Olmstead Decision with the Introduction of the Community Integration Act
Senator Harkin also chaired roundtable hearing on the progress towards home and community-based care since the Olmstead decision
June 25, 2014 10:19 AM
Last Sunday marked the fifteenth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, which found that the unnecessary segregation of individuals with disabilities in institutions is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To recognize that landmark decision, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee introduced the Community Integration Act. Senator Harkin also held a hearing on the status of home and community-based living for people with disabilities 15 years after the Olmstead decision was handed down.
Last July, Senator Harkin’s HELP Committee staff released a report that found that more than 200,000 working-age Americans remain unfairly segregated in nursing homes. In his introductory remarks announcing the Community Integration Act, Senator Harkin stated that:
“Fifteen years ago in Olmstead v. L.C., the Supreme Court held that under the ADA, individuals with disabilities have the right to choose to receive their services and support in home- and community-based settings, rather than only in a nursing home or other institutional setting. But we have yet to fully realize this promise, and many individuals with disabilities—our family members and our friends—continue to reside in institutional settings against their wishes.
Studies clearly show that home and community-based care is not only what most people want, but it is also more cost-effective. The choice to live in the community is one of the most important civil rights issues we face today. The Community Integration Act honors the Olmstead decision and ensures that states take the steps needed to ensure that all individuals with disabilities are given the opportunity to receive their services and supports in a community based setting, where they can work, participate in community life, and be an integral part of their communities.”
While the specifics of the Community Integration Act have not been released yet, the general aims of the legislation are:
Eliminate the Nursing Home Bias in Medicaid by clearly allowing the provision of similar care or services in home and community based settings.
Prohibit states from making anyone ineligible for home- and community-based services based on a particular disability.
Require states that have found an individual to be eligible for nursing or institutional care to similarly find those same individuals to be eligible for care in home and community-based settings.
Set clear requirements for states regarding the provision of services in home and community based settings.
Require annual reporting by states about the number of individuals with disabilities in institutional settings and the number that have been transitioned to home and community based settings.
In addition to introducing the Community Integration Act, Senator Harkin also chaired a HELP roundtable hearing entitled, “Moving Toward Greater Community Inclusion – Olmstead at 15.” The focus of the hearing was on developments in advancing the community integration of people with disabilities and the impact of the Olmstead decision.
Witnesses during the hearing explained how they have been able to transition away from institutional care and into community-based care, and how they are able to lead independent lives since the passage of the ADA as well as the Olmstead ruling. There was bipartisan support among Committee members to continue to improve access to home and community-based services for people with disabilities. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Ranking Member on the HELP Committee, stated that he wanted to continue to see Tennessee lead the way in community living, and also expressed concern for what the Department of Labor’s new overtime rules will mean for improving access to home and community-based services for people with disabilities.
For more information on HELP’s recent hearing, including witness testimony and a full video of the hearing, please click here.