Monday, December 14, 2015

Disability advocates prod legislators on clearing waiver waiting list

Posted By on Mon, Dec 14, 2015 at 4:09 PM

Advocacy groups for disabled Arkansans and their families today sent a letter to the co-chairs of the Health Reform Task Force asking for some answers on the continually deferred issue of home- and community-based services waivers for care.

As we've reported in the past, there are thousands of Arkansas families who've for years been stuck on a waiting list to receive a waiver that would allow them to pay for home health aides and similar services with Medicaid dollars. Since the Affordable Care Act became law, those families have had their hopes set on the Community First Choice Option, an optional ACA provision that would give states an enhanced federal Medicaid match rate in return for allowing all disabled individuals the option of home/community care, rather than institutionalization. (Texas, for one, has embraced CFCO.)

By this point, the Arkansas legislature has made it clear it's not interested in implementing CFCO. Its consultant on Medicaid reform, the Stephen Group, has said the state can clear the waiting list in other ways; the consultants have emphasized repeatedly that the legislature can save money and clear the list at the same time, all without CFCO. But although the task force's work is wrapping up soon, we've heard no specifics about how the state proposes to do that.

Advocates today are demanding some answers. They write:

We’re contacting you today to ask for more information. Does the task force intend to make specific recommendations to the legislature to address the waiting list and, if so, what are those recommendations? Will potential savings realized under Medicaid reform be used to fund home and community-based services for people on the waiting list? Will funding those services be a priority in upcoming budget negotiations? What is the timeline for funding home and community-based services for people on the waiting list?

We believe that we, as a group, could assist the task force to build statewide support for whatever plans you propose to serve people with disabilities living in the community.

We sincerely appreciate the work that you are doing, and we respectfully ask that you share information related to potential waiting list plans with us

All good questions, and deserving of a response from co-chairs Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) and Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R-Rogers), along with other legislators on the task force. 

Here's the full letter.

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