Coming soon: Expansion of home-based Medicaid services

State Medicaid programs will soon have much greater leeway to treat patients in home- and community-based settings, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reminded state officials Monday.

The changes — included in the Democrats' new healthcare-reform law — will allow states to expand the home- and community-based services (HCBS) they offer, while also extending eligibility to higher income folks. 

The shift to HCBS has become popular in recent years, with supporters arguing that such services not only grant the frail and elderly the independence of staying at home, but also preclude the need to move those patients in more expensive institutional settings, such as nursing homes. 

In a letter to state Medicaid directors, Cindy Mann, director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations, also notes the new healthcare law eliminates the power of states to limit HCBS to certain regions of the state, instead requiring Medicaid to cover all eligible patients statewide.

The changes will take effect Oct. 1.