Thursday, January 12, 2012

Update on Family Care: Bill to Lift Cap Introduced, Hearing on Audit Next Week

As mentioned in our recent blog post, Healthcare Highlights of the Holiday Hiatus, Governor Walker announced on December 28th that he wants to lift the cap on Family Care (as well as IRIS and Family Care Partnership) and allow all counties to participate.  Later that day, reporters discovered that the Administration had been directed by the federal government to lift the cap impopsed by the budget bill on those programs. 

Just yesterday, Senator Moulton and Rep. Kaufert started circulating legislation to formally remove the cap on enrollment in Family Care and the related long-term care programs. The deadline for signing on is Friday (Jan. 13), which indicates that the co-authors hope it will be considered on a fast track.  We hope so too, provided that some key questions about the assumed cost savings are answered soon.

The proposed legislation has no appropriation, which suggests that the intent of the bill is for the estimated $80 million GPR cost of lifting the cap to come from changes or “efficiencies” in the programs. That’s a concern for some advocates, who are awaiting more information about those changes. Nevertheless, a memo from the Survival Coalition of disability organizations encourages legislators to support the bill.

This coming Wednesday, January 18 , the Joint Audit Committee is holding a public hearing at 9:00 a.m. regarding the April 2011 Family Care audit and the follow-up report issued by the Dept. of Health Services (DHS) on September 1. The purpose of the hearing is to have DHS staff discuss concrete plans to address concerns raised by the audit.  Advocates are hopeful that the hearing will shed some more light on the efficiencies identified by the department in Family Care.

Regardless of the Audit Committee hearing, it is critical for DHS to release more details on the seven efficiencies papers they are promoting as means to cover the costs of lifting the Family Care cap. The implications of these efficiencies should be fully examined by beneficiaries and advocates, in an open, truly transparent public process.

With recent Medicaid budget developments, including the deficit estimate being reduced by $322 million and a $24.5 million bonus payment from the federal government for successful coverage of kids, there is money to both lift the cap on Family Care and to set aside most of the proposed changes to BadgerCare.

We are very pleased that a bill to lift the Family Care cap is being introduced, and we are optimistic that it will have strong bipartisan support. However, before the bill goes much further, we are counting on DHS and legislators to ensure that interested parties understand how the changes are being financed and the implications of those choices.

Sara Eskrich and Jon Peacock

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