Last week, ARRM sent a letter to each member of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Conference Committee, the group which will combine the House and Senate versions of HHS budget bills into one for final passage. This committee has several provisions in front of it related to critical issues for the home and community-based services (HCBS) more than 35,000 Minnesotans with disabilities utilize to support their independence and community inclusion.
ARRM, on behalf of its more than 160 provider members and the HCBS industry as a whole, sent a letter to conference committee members outlining its guidance on several issues. Two provisions stand out for our organization and many aligned stakeholders in this field:
- Workforce investments (ARRM supports): Both bill versions introduce targeted re-investments in the reimbursement rates for services, directed to increase the wages of the support professionals who work directly with clients, up to a projected $133 million over the next four years (current statewide average just over $13/hr). This would begin to address the structural 17 percent wage gap between these jobs and other positions competing for similar workforce talent; ARRM strongly supports these measures, with a preference for the House language.
- Caps on support (ARRM opposes): Language in the Senate bill would place a cap on the number of qualifying people who could receive Medicaid waivers. ARRM and other aligned stakeholders strongly oppose this measure: reducing access to the primary source of financial support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to receive services which help them stay out of institutional settings and maximize their abilities is not the answer to solve concerns over costs or capacity.
There are several other issues ARRM is fighting for and asked the committee to consider in its letter:
- Supporting the ability for all Intermediate Care Facilities (ICF) to seek service rate exceptions for the people they support to ensure they are able to meet their changing needs
- Supporting additional investigation capacity for reviewing complaints to ensure a quality and timely process, but ensuring fee increases to pay for this are recouped in cost-of-service reimbursements and do not become additional unfunded expenses on provider organizations
- Preventing policy from passing which would reduce the capacity of adult foster care through the forced closure of resident slots
The scope of legislation related to this field currently under consideration will have significant impacts to this sector serving tens of thousands of vulnerable adults, and employing more than 100,000 statewide.