Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich. (Photo: Dingell) Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich. (Photo: Dingell)

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., is the caregiver for John Dingell Jr., a Democrat who represented Michigan in the House for 59 years.

Dingell mentioned her role as her husband’s caregiver on the House floor Tuesday, shortly before House members agreed, by a voice vote, to pass H.R. 259, a Medicaid extender bill.

If passed by the Senate and signed by President Donald Trump, H.R. 259 would continue a program that uses some Medicaid nursing home money to support home and community-based long-term care (LTC) programs.

(Related: House May Pass Medicaid Planning Measure This Week)

The current spending authorization for the program expired Dec. 31. H.R. 259 would keep funding in place through March 31.

H.R. 259 would also continue a related provision that seeks to keep the husbands and wives of people who use Medicaid LTC services from falling into poverty. The spousal impoverishment prevention provision lets states decide how to count the income and assets of a spouse when determining whether an individual is eligible for Medicaid home and community-based LTC benefits.

The House put H.R. 259 on its suspension calendar. The suspension calendar system lets bills with broad support speed through the House without complying with all of the usual procedural rules.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., introduced a bill containing a similar Medicaid home care extender provision in December, when the House was still under Republican control.

House Republicans continue to support the measure.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas,  said on the House floor, before the vote, that the Medicaid home care program has already improved people’s quality of life, reduced hospital readmissions, and saved Medicaid money.

“While we would like to have extended the funding for longer, it was essential to get an extension across the floor, even if it is just for a small period of time,” Burgess said.

Dingell said she hoped Congress would soon follow up by passing a long-term extension of the Medicaid home and community-based LTC program and the anti-spousal-impoverishment program.

“Like millions of Americans, I, too, am a primary caretaker, Dingell said. “I often say taking John to the doctor is like attending a town hall meeting.”

Dingell said she has learned, from the other caregivers she has met, that the U.S. long-term care system is broken.

— Read An LTC Planner’s Guide to the Presidential Candidateson ThinkAdvisor.

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