HHS approves program to allow individuals with disabilities to control their own care

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The Department of Health and Human Services has approved a Maryland plan that will make it easier for individuals with disabilities to retain more control of home and community-based services.

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson approved the waiver, "New Directions," on Tuesday, making it the seventh program in HHS' Independence Plus initiative, which strives to give states flexibility to design programs aiding individuals with disabilities to live more independent lives.

"Self direction is a proven approach to higher beneficiary satisfaction for the same or lower costs," said Mark McClellan, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

New Directions will provide Medicaid services that include supported employment, transportation and assisted technology and adaptive equipment. Participants in the program can select and direct their personal assistants and use a portion of their individual budget for non-traditional services and goods.

Since January 2001, HHS has approved waivers and plan amendments for programs such as Independence Plus that have expanded Medicaid eligibility to more than two million people and enhanced benefits for more than six million people.