HCBS Conference Recap: Independent Living and Self-Direction, Increasing the Direct Care Workforce and More

UnitedHealthcare partner ADvancing States held its annual Home and Community-Based services (HCBS) Conference in a hybrid format December 6-10, 2021. Attendees gained valuable insights on practices and policies regarding advancements in HCBS.

Independent living and self-direction

Several of my colleagues participated in sessions on services for people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD). Among the topics discussed was the effort by UnitedHealthcare Community & State to address workforce challenges in the direct service provider (DSP) community. In addition, I was fortunate to host a conversation with National Advisory Board (NAB) member Jennifer Kucera to present the board’s newly released whitepapers on independent living and self-direction.

These whitepapers help introduce the independent living movement and the consumer option to self-direct. NAB chose to focus their 2021 work on these topics based on the COVID-19 public health emergency and the spotlight it has created for the challenges of institutional settings and the limited supply of workers available to care for people in their home. These papers include details on the role of independent living and self-direction, how consumers can engage in each and the obstacles they face. Finally, these whitepapers detail recommendations for actionable opportunities to improve access.

Focused sessions

In addition to the HCBS conference’s educational tracks from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Administration on Community Living (ACL), sessions focused on how to increase the direct care workforce, increase community participation for consumers and the use of value-based purchasing in home- and community-based services.

There was significant discussion around how states plan to use the one-time 10% HCBS FMAP bump included in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding and how the financial plan proposed in the Build Back Better Act enables states to continue to build on programs that will be initiated through ARPA funding. Spending plans are due in January of 2022, so we will continue to monitor developments and partner with states as they move forward.

In an important plenary session, ACL Principal Deputy Administrator Alison Barkoff was joined by the United States Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Senior Advisor for Housing and Services, Richard Cho, to announce the launch of the Housing and Services Resource Center. This federally coordinated approach will provide resources, program guidance, training and technical assistance to public housing authorities and housing providers, state Medicaid offices and stakeholder organizations.

A tribute to Gary Sullivan

Finally, MLTSS advocate and NAB member Gary Sullivan was posthumously awarded the Arthur Flemming award in honor of his outstanding advocacy on behalf of older Americans, Americans with disabilities and their caregivers. Gary’s wife Nancy and caregiver Katie received the award on his behalf. Catherine Anderson also announced UnitedHealthcare’s plan to honor Gary and his advocacy by establishing a scholarship fund to train caregivers who work with self-directing consumers—an important cause to Gary and his commitment to live the life of his choosing.

Learn more about Gary’s legacy in this memoriam video

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