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Budget committee affirms rejection of federal grant to keep people out of nursing homes

The state's Agency for Health Care Administration on Friday asked the legislative budget commission for permission to spend the first installment of a $35.7 million federal "Money Follows the Person" grant tied to the federal health care legislation. The response? No.

It was generally, a party-line vote, but Republican senators J.D. Alexander and Joe Negron broke ranks and supported the request. Alexander hesitated before his vote, saying he hoped his colleagues would "vote their conscience." The votes from Negron and Alexander meant the Senate favored the request, but House members gave it a thumbs-down, so the measure failed. 

The Money Follows the Person grant was created in 2005 under President George W. Bush to keep elderly and disabled people out of nursing homes by providing home health aides and other services. The grants save states money because Medicaid usually pays if clients stay in nursing homes.

But the program is now part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and authorizing the spending would "go against" a "policy" promulgated by House Speaker Dean Cannon to not implement any part of the legislation federal health care law, said Cannon spokeswoman Katie Betta.

The ObamaCare issue never came up in the commission conversation. Instead, Rep. Rob Schenck and Rep. Denise Grimsley said state efforts to get people out of nursing homes are sufficient and the federal money is simply duplicative.

"I realize they're federal dollars, but they're taxpayer dollars," Grimsley said.