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What’s the industry’s stake in Build Back Better?

What’s the industry’s stake in Build Back Better? ‘It would be truly life changing for so many people’

Alex BennewithWASHINGTON – United Spinal Association’s Alexandra Bennewith, who has been working in Washington, D.C., for close to 25 years, says she’s never seen anything as comprehensive for home and community-based services for the disability community as the Build Back Better legislation. 

“It would be truly life changing for so many people,” said Bennewith, vice president, government relations, for the association. 

Here’s what Bennewith had to say about why the bill, which has passed the House of Representatives and is now before the Senate, is so “unique.” 

HME News: Why is United Spinal tracking this bill so closely? 

Alex Bennewith: The provisions that we are closely monitoring have to do with home and community-based services. The legislation calls for an investment of $150 billion in the first 10 years, which is just historic. It’s difficult for Medicare and Medicaid to expand access to these services and strengthen the direct care workforce without additional funds, so that’s why a substantial investment of this kind is definitely needed. 

HME: What are some examples of the home and community-based services that are in the bill? 

Bennewith: The Money Follows the Person program is a program under Medicaid where funding is provided to states to get people out of institutions and back into their communities. This is something that has been usually funded with short-term fixes – one-year extensions. We’re always having to go back and ask for it to be extended. The House version of BBB would make the program a permanent reauthorization, which would be so wonderful. It has helped more than 100,000 people get back into their communities. 

HME: It’s, as you say, a comprehensive bill. What else stands out for the disability community? 

Bennewith: There are provisions related to providing grants to states to move away from subminimum wages for people with disabilities – I can’t believe that’s still a thing in 2021. There are provisions that address the caregiving crisis, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. There are provisions related to accessible housing for people with disabilities. There are so many different things in there. 

HME: What’s the status of the bill in the Senate, as of early December? 

Bennewith: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is focused on trying to get it passed before Christmas. 


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