June 6, 2019
The 2019 legislature has been put to bed and it is possible to assess the results for disability services. As our trade association, ARRM, mentions, the new Health & Human Services bill is hundreds of pages long, spends billions of dollars, and regulates thousands of programs and organizations.
I think it is more than fair to note that disability services did pretty well this year. All sides, the DFL Governor & House, and the GOP Senate, stood up for these services in a way we had not seen before.
Our biggest issue was created by a previous administration, where it impounded lawfully appropriated funds, which were part of the new rate system for waivered services. DHS, working closely with the Best Life Alliance and ARRM, determined a way to restore the money in a way that CMS would accept. The legislature and the Governor accepted this method and changed the system so that 4% of the 7% was restored. That lowers the cuts HBI will be facing next year when the new system goes live for everyone on the waiver. We are deeply thankful to all of our champions, of both parties, who made this happen. It was the Governor, who put the money in his original budget, who got the momentum going.
We were also able to change the timing of the inflationary adjustment in the new system, from taking effect every 5 years to every 2. Increases will become more regular and they won’t cost so much. Proving the old adage that regulatory overkill waxes and wanes, we began to push back on some of the extraordinary, and unnecessary, additions that have been added on over the last few years. The most significant change was to eliminate the hourly requirements on training, while requiring instead that staff be competent.
Sometimes you gain a victory by preventing legislation that would harm services. We were able to stop the House from increasing our licensing fees. The Senate was stopped from capping the number of individuals who could get a waiver, and from creating a requirement to close beds in 4-bed waiver homes if they were not filled fast enough.
We did have a significant loss however. We pushed to expand a program, that funds higher needs at ICFs, to all ICFs. Currently, it only covers ICFs whose rates fall below the median, which excludes most metro programs and most programs that serve higher needs individuals like HBl’s. We were unsuccessful but we will be back.
Finally, a thank you to all of you who contacted your legislators and pushed disability services. It made a difference. Whenever I talked to legislators, they knew immediately what the “7% issue” was and why it was important. When you work hard, have a great message, and never let up, good things can happen!