Confused on what’s been going on over the past 18 months with Long Term Care (LTC) in Wisconsin? A member of the DSAW Advocacy Committee has summarized the important events for us:
February, 2015: The Governor’s biennial budget proposes significant changes to the Medicaid funded long term care (LTC) programs in Wisconsin. Changes include Family Care’s integrattion with acute/primary medical care and administration by insurance companies, and the elimination of the IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct) program, reducing the number of regions from 8 to no more than 3 and expanding Family Care to all counties.
February, 2015: Legislative Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) proposes an alternative to the Governor’s proposed budget that maintains the move to insurance company-administered long term, but provided for a self directed option that was the same as the current IRIS plan, expanded Family Care to all counties, decreased the number of regions to 5 and required consultation with stakeholders. It also required that the Department of Health Services present a Concept Paper to JFC, no later than 4-1-15, laying out the details of the new plan for vote by JFC.
March, 2015: Hundreds of LTC participants, families, providers and advocates attended public budget hearing around the state opposing the proposed changes to LTC and giving impassioned testimony on merits of the current system.
March – July, 2015: Participants, families, stakeholders and advocates from around the state rally to oppose these changes and ask that these changes be removed from the budget, and that stakeholders be part of the process of developing a long term care plan that would build on the strengths of the current plan and assure sustainability for years to come.
July, 2015: JFC passes their budget as proposed. The Governor approves it with line item veto changing the number of regions to 3.
July, 2015: 65+ members of the WI Long Term Care Coalition convened to create “The Stakeholders’ Blueprint for Long Term Care Redesign” to offer DHS, JFC and the state legislature constructive stakeholder input on LTC.
September 29, 2015: The first DHS sponsored, invitation-only, stakeholder meeting consisting of 30-40 stakeholders from around the state is held.
January, 2016: The first of monthly stakeholder meetings with the Secretary of DHS is held to collect input on the DHS Concept Paper. DHS invited a representative from each of the following: AARP, LTC Coalition, Disability Right WI, Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, Save IRIS, Independent Living Centers, Gwaar/ADRC’s and the Governor’s office.
February, 2016: LTC Coalition “Stakeholder Blueprint” is released publically.
March 31, 2016: DHS Concept Paper is delivered to JFC.
April – May, 2016: Hundreds of LTC participants, families, providers and advocates attended public hearings around the state opposing the proposed changes to LTC and giving impassioned testimony on merits of the current system. They continue their grassroots advocacy by writing, calling and visiting their elected officials.
June, 2016: Due to lack of support and the finding that the proposed changes will not provide the desired cost savings, Secretary of DHS, Kitty Rhoades, withdraws the Concept Paper.
June 18, 2016: Secretary of DHS, Kitty Rhoades dies.
Over the past 18 months, LTC in Wisconsin has been a pressing and often contentious issue that has mobilized thousands of people in the state to take action and make their voices heard. DSAW thanks its members for their support and action during this important time in the lives of those with disabilities. Your support, phone calls and letters have made a huge impact.
The Governor, DHS and the legislature are committed to moving forward with positive changes to the current long term care system. Some of the items they hope to implement are better quality and outcome measures, increased community-based employment, and integrating acute/primary care with LTC service to achieve better health outcomes.
For now, DHS is working on plans for these improvements, but much is on hold awaiting the Governor’s appointment of the new Secretary of Health Services. It our sincere hope that Governor Walker appoints a person who has publically demonstrated a strong belief in self-direction, person-centered planning, home and community-based services, integrated and living-wage employment, and commitment to collaboration with stakeholders and the public in developing a LTC plan that is effective, respectful, cost effective and sustainable for many years to come.