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Monday, March 2, 2015

Wisconsin Advocates challenge Gov. Walker's plan for Disabled

Wisconsin governor's blueprint calls for expanding the Family Care program while discontinuing all other long-term care programs.
MADISON, Wis. -- Gov. Scott Walker's proposed cuts to programs that help people with disabilities live independently are being criticized as potentially devastating by advocates and those who use the services.
Walker's proposed budget would expand the state's Family Care program by Jan. 1, 2017, at which point all other long-term care programs would be discontinued, including the IRIS program, which benefits 11,000 adults with long-term care needs. Walker has proposed cutting $14 million in funding to the Family Care program over the next two years.
Changes to the Family Care program and cuts to the personal-care program could save the state $33 million over the next two years, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported. But advocates say the proposed overhaul would be difficult to execute by 2017 and that questions remain as to how the new statewide system would work.
Claire Yunker, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health Services, said in a statement that Walker's proposal is aimed at preventing fraud and abuse in the existing system and creating a more coordinated care regimen.
But Daniel Idzikowski, executive director of Disability Rights -- a group that advocates for people with disabilities -- said his organization was not consulted about Walker's plan that the Legislature will debate over the next three months.
It would drastically restructure Family Care, which administers personal-care and long-term care services to elderly, disabled and injured Wisconsinites through Medicaid, he said.
"By and large, that system's working pretty well," Idzikowski said. "Nobody's saying we need to completely eliminate this system and replace it with a different model. I think everyone was surprised by these changes."
Yunker said the state Medicaid fraud unit has been asked to investigate more claims pertaining to IRIS's personal-care program, which allows for assistance for bathing, dressing and other cares, than for any other Medicaid benefit. She said the state doesn't keep track how many confirmed cases of such fraud there were.
Under Walker's proposal, Family Care would incorporate acute and primary care health services, as well as community-based long-term supports.
"The goal is to ensure that all of an individual's care is coordinated -- that there is some assessment to look at the person's overall health," Yunker said.
She said existing care services do not coordinate care services between acute- and primary-care providers.
Yunker said self-directed care options still will be available for participants, but it's still unclear how those would function. Upon passage of the budget, the model would be worked out through a waiver negotiation process.

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