Fee increase for families, disabled children is eyed

A fee increase included in the recently approved state budget agreement is a tax on families who have children with disabilities, according to The Arc of Minnesota, an advocacy group for persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.

“Why are we targeting families who are trying to raise their children with disabilities?” said Pat Mellenthin, Executive Director of The Arc of Minnesota. “They already face substantial costs in raising their children with disabilities, including fees for the services they need to keep their children at home. Many of these parents had been previously hit with a huge jump in their fees. They don’t needor deserve “to be taxed further.”

The fee increase would take effect on July 1. These fees were increased dramatically in 2003. At that time, some middle-income families saw their fees increase by as much as 200% or more; families of about 7,000 children were affected then. The monthly increase just approved will mean that a middle-income family of four earning $60,000 will see their fee rise by another 8.7%. Many families earning higher incomes will see increasingly larger percentage increases.

“To balance our state budget, we don’t have to single out families who struggle daily to meet their children’s needs,” Mellenthin said. “Our legislators can raise revenues more fairly and more broadly and not target families with disabilities. They can fund innovative ways of providing services that can save the state money and improve their quality. They can fund programs that help keep families together, maintain the independence of people with disabilities, and spend tax dollars more cost-effectively.”

The Arc of Minnesota supports a number of the provisions in the state budget. “The bill does not include any rate cuts to providers of services that help people maintain their independence in the community. These services are more cost-effective than services in larger institutions,” said Steve Larson, The Arc of Min-nesota’s Public Policy Director. “It also funds an innovative program to measure the satisfaction of services–one that involves people with disabilities and helps ensure that our disability services are improving their lives

Here’s how a number of other issues fared during the 2010 session of the Minnesota Legislature. Information is from MnCCD, the Arc of Minnesota and other advocacy groups.

   

Complete Streets legislation was passed. The new law will ensure that Minnesota’s roads are planned and designed to be safe and accessible for drivers, pedestrians, transit riders, and bicyclists. Some cities have Complete Streets policy; this makes the policy statewide. Much of the implementation is in the hands of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) with the involvement of community stakeholders. It also provides design flexibility for local communities in street and road projects.

   

Building code access will change, as municipalities need to enforce the access requirements in code. This new law provides the option of hiring or contracting with an accessibility specialist for the purpose of code review and enforcement. There are also clear steps for the state to take if cities fail to comply.

   

Pregnant women who do not have disabling medical issues will not be able to obtain a disability-parking placard. A bill that would have eased the placard restrictions for expectant mothers did not get through the committee process.

   

Service animals will get more protection as there will be a criminal penalty for any person who intentionally renders a service animal unable to perform its duties regardless of   whether or not the service animal was physically harmed. Offenders who are convicted of harming service animals pay restitution to the service animal’s handler for expenses resulting from the crime.

 

Waiver growth is affected. Waiver acuity factor in DD waiver suspended from Jan 1 2010 to June 30 2011. TBI, CADI and DD waiver slots are limited for FY 2010 

   

A Minnesota Council on Transportation Access was established to study, evaluate, oversee, and make recommendations to improve the coordination, availability, accessibility, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and safety of transportation services provided to the transit public. “Transit public” means those persons who utilize public transit and those who, because of mental or physical disability, income status, or age are unable to transport themselves and are dependent upon others for transportation services.

   

Rehabilitative therapies saw a number of changes. In the area of Physical Therapy, prior authorization by the commissioner will be required to provide services beyond:  80 units of any approved CPT code other than modalities; 20 modality sessions; and three evaluations or reevaluations. This is effective July 1, 2010 for FFS and January 1, 2011 for managed care. In the area of Occupational Therapy, prior authorization by the commissioner will be required to provide services beyond: 120 units of any combination of approved CPT codes; and two evaluations or reevaluations. Effective July 1, 2010 for FFS and January 1, 2011 for managed care. In the area of Speech therapy, prior authorization by the commissioner will be required to provide services beyond: 50 treatment sessions with any combination of approved CPT codes; and one evaluation. Effective July 1, 2010 for FFS and January 1, 2011 for managed care. For Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy, effective July 1 2010 these services will be classified as basic care services, and will therefore see a 2% increase in rates for services beginning on July 1, 2010 (line 94.30)

   

Medicare Payment Limit was changed. Effective July 1, 2010, basic care service rates shall not exceed the Medicare payment rate for applicable services (does not apply to mental health services). For most every Medicaid reimbursed service where reimbursement rates are currently higher than the Medicare reimbursement rates, providers will see a rate cut as these rates are brought into line with Medicare rates.

   

Education programs did not see much movement as the House, Senate and Gov. Tim Pawlenty could not agree on a K-12 omnibus bill. It’s the first time in many years there have been no significant changes to state education policy. Nor will Minnesota compete for federal Race to the Top funding.

   

Community Counts is moving ahead. The Minnesota State Council on Disabilities, MN-CCD, and the Arc of Minnesota may submit an annual report by January 15 of each year, beginning 2012, to the chairs and ranking minority members of the legislative committees with jurisdiction over programs serving people with disabilities. The report will provide data and measurement to assess the extent to which goals and benchmarks in the area of disability services are being met. This is important in tracking how the state meets goals in serving people with disabilities.

MA-EPD,  effective Jan 1, 2011, the commissioner shall notify enrollees annually beginning at least 24 months before their 65th birthday of the medical assistance eligibility rules affecting income, assets and treatments of a spouse’s income and assets that will be applied upon reaching age 65.

   

Minnesota Disability Health Options (MnDHO) shall now longer exist, effective January 1, 2011, MnDHO shall no longer exist. The commissioner may reopen the program provided certain applicable conditions are met (line 127.34)

   

Region 10 Quality Assurance project has $10,000 in funding restored, after losing funding in 2009. A commission is overseeing a person-centered process that significantly enhances the quality of life for persons with developmental disabilities.

 

Durable medical supplies and equipment will have reimbursement changes. The commissioner may now set reimbursement rates for specified categories of medical supplies at levels below the Medicare payment rate, which will result in medical supply companies and MA providers seeing reduced reimbursement rates for durable medical equipment.