The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is pressing state officials to create a new grant program to help elderly and disabled Iowans renovate their homes.

Dan Endreson is a public policy manager for the organization’s upper Midwest chapter. “That goal is that by creating homes that are safe, they can either delay or forego the need to move into long-term care,” he says.

Endreson and others met privately with Governor Branstad in August to discuss the concept. Endreson made the case in public last week at a budget hearing, asking Branstad to set aside $600,000 in state money for a Home Modification Assistance Program.

“The purpose is to provide grants to Iowans who are elderly or living with the disability to modify their homes, to increase accessibility and safety,” Endreson says. Endreson argues the investment ultimately would save the state money, keeping more Iowans living independently at home rather than moving into costly long-term care facilities.

Traditional health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid typically do not cover modifications like grab bars in the shower that make a home more accessible and safe for an elderly or disabled resident. Several other states offer mortgage assistance or grant programs to help finance those kind of upgrades.