After the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) reviewed and denied requests for a contested case proceeding to appeal the 7% rate adjustment under the Disability Waiver Rate System (DWRS), ARRM, MOHR, and 4 individual waiver recipients returned to the federal appeals court to file suit again. The case was back before Judge Wilhelmina Wright to review, and she had 60 days to respond with a verdict. On February 15th, Judge Wright dismissed the lawsuit, citing that there were multiple points where plaintiffs lacked the standing to push the case forward in federal court – particularly centered on whether irreparable harm from the cuts was truly significant and unavoidable. She did not, however, issue a ruling as to whether the overall action by DHS overstepped its authority or the law, leaving the possibility open for future litigation in either state or federal court.
Business is speeding up dramatically at the State Capitol on a host of legislative priorities for ARRM, as well as new related legislation.
On Monday, February 11th, the Best Life Alliance Legislation (HF 179) was heard in the House Health and Human Service Policy Committee. ARRM author, Rep. Laurie Halverson, presented the bill and Judy Marder, chair of the Best Life Alliance group, provided testimony in support of the bill. The bill was referred to the Ways and Means Committee through a unanimous roll call vote and has now been re-referred to the Health and Human Services Finance Committee.
In addition to the Best Life Alliance proposal, an alternative proposal was also heard during committee on Monday. HF 168, which is carried by Rep. Jennifer Schultz, was heard and amended. The amendment does the following:
- Moves the inflationary adjustment from every 5 years to every 2 years and accesses the most recently available data when making the adjustment
- Officially removes the 7% from statute, effective retroactively to July 1, 2018
- Requires providers to pay Direct Support Professionals, at a minimum, the amount that is listed in the Base Wage within DWRS for that particular service
- Puts new reporting requirements on providers focused on workforce
As written, ARRM and the Best Life Alliance have concerns with the amendment because it puts new requirements on providers for compensation but does not provide any new funding. The bill’s author has indicated that additional amendments will be presented during future committee meetings that work to address these concerns.
During committee, ARRM and MOHR members were able to testify and bring forth their concerns about the bill as drafted. ARRM member Butch Karcher of Karcher Foster Services offered testimony on the workforce crisis and the struggles he, along with other providers, are facing around staffing. MOHR member Lynne Noren of Rise provided testimony outlining concerns with the mechanics and implementation of the bill language as written.
Workforce Hearing in the Senate
Also on Monday, Senator Jim Abeler held a hearing in his committee, Human Services Reform, Finance and Policy, focused on the workforce crisis in long term care services. ARRM staff and members provided testimony. Additional testimony was taken from the advocacy community and the older adults community. While there was no direct outcome from this hearing, it was a good opportunity to be able to get important messaging in front of the committee and continue to push for legislation to help address the workforce crisis.
You can watch clips of the hearing on ARRM’s Facebook page.
Progress on other ARRM Bills
ARRM’s ICF bill (SF 909) was heard in the Senate Human Services Reform, Finance and Policy Committee. ARRM’s Director of State and Federal Policy, Sara Grafstrom, testified on behalf of the bill along with lead author, Sen. Bruce Anderson. The bill was laid on the table until a formal fiscal note is available.
ARRM’s Policy bill (HF1256) was introduced in the House on Thursday; carried by Rep. Hunter Cantrell. ARRM is working with leadership to obtain a hearing for this bill in both the House and Senate.
Looking Ahead to Next Week
On Tuesday, February 19th, the Governor’s budget will be released. Please watch for information from ARRM and the Best Life Alliance on any potential actions that may be needed from our grassroots advocates in response.
Stay tuned for more updates as they become available through HCO’s Grassroots Blog or at ARRM’s website.