On January 16, 2014, CMS published a final rule that implements expanded federal support for HCBS offered as an optional benefit through state Medicaid programs, as authorized by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Deficit Reduction Act. Specifically, the rule establishes eligibility requirements for Medicaid HCBS provided under sections 1915(c), 1915(i), and 1915(k) of the Social Security Act. In a fact sheet accompanying the rule, CMS emphasized the important stakeholder input it received during the rulemaking process, which resulted in CMS “moving away from defining home and community-based settings by ‘what they are not,’ and toward defining them by the nature and quality of individuals’ experiences” (although certain institutional facilities, including nursing facilities, institutions for mental diseases, intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and hospitals generally are not considered to meet the definition of a home and community-based setting).

Under the rule, CMS intends to promote access to the most integrated settings that provide alternatives to services provided in institutions, using an “outcome-oriented definition” of HCBS settings instead of one based on location, geography, or physical characteristics. Under the rule, home and community-based settings must: be integrated in and support full access to the greater community; be selected by the individual from among setting options; ensure individual rights of privacy, dignity and respect, and freedom from coercion and restraint; optimize autonomy and independence in making life choices; and facilitate choice regarding services and who provides them. Note that the rule includes additional requirements for provider-owned or controlled home and community-based residential settings, including that the individual has a lease or other legally enforceable agreement, and standards related to the individual’s privacy, control over schedule and visitors, and physical accessibility of the setting.

In addition to defining home and community-based settings, the final rule addresses many other aspects of Medicaid HCBS programs, including requirements that services under section 1915(c) and 1915(i) be established through a person-centered planning process that addresses health and long-term services and support needs in a manner that reflects individual preferences and goals. It also implements new flexibility for states to target services to specific populations and to combine multiple target populations in one waiver, while streamlining waiver administration.

The rule is effective March 17, 2014, but CMS is providing transition periods both for states adopting new programs, and for those states with currently-approved waivers and state plans that may need to develop a plan to bring their program into compliance. The text of the rule is available at , and additional materials are posted at http://www.medicaid.gov/HCBS. CMS also stresses that there will be continued opportunities for stakeholder input as it works with states to implement this final rule.