A new Senate bill could help states provide home-based and community-based long term care for seniors and for Americans with disabilities.

The bill, the “Empowered at Home Act of 2008,” was introduced by Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and John Kerry, D-Mass.

Grassley is the highest ranking Republican member of the Senate Committee on Finance, and Kerry also is a member of the committee.

The bill would:

- Ease eligibility limits for an existing home care and community care option that was created in 2006.

- Give states the option of implementing “interventional” home-based and community-based services. Under this provision, a state could choose to offer such services to people before they are Medicaid eligible, if they are likely eventually to use the Medicaid institutional benefit.

- Provide grant money for states to administer expanded home-based and community-based services.

In other news, Grassley reportedly is following up on earlier efforts to determine whether private insurers are hurting the Social Security Disability Insurance program by encouraging claimants who appear not to qualify for SSDI benefits to file SSDI claims.

The New York Times is reporting that Grassley has written to 9 disability insurers to ask them how many claimants they required to apply for SSSDI, how many appeals were mandated and how they pre-screened to ensure that claimants had a real chance of qualifying for government benefits.