Health care management program comes to an end

A program that has made life easier for thousands of Minnesotans with disabilities is coming to an end. The Minnesota Disability Health Options Program (MnDHO) will be ending effecting Jan. 1, 2011, according to UCare President and Chief Executive Officer Nancy J. Feldman. In a letter to MnDHO members dated Feb. 22, Feldman announced that to UCare’s “great disappointment,” MnDHO or UCare Complete will be ending.

“We are proud of what we accomplished with MnDHO, and deeply regret the impact of closing this program on our members. Rest assured we will do all we can to help you [the member] through this transition,” Feldman said.

Initially a pilot program, MnDHO evolved to become a program that has maintained good health and simplified the lives of many Minnesotans with disabilities. The program was offered by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), UCare and Axis Healthcare.

Axis Healthcare, the primary care coordinating organization for MnDHO, was founded in 1997 by Courage Center and Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute as an innovative model of care for people with disabilities. Their experience providing health care services to persons with disabilities convinced them that neither the fee-for-service system nor the traditional managed care was able to deliver appropriate, cost-effective care.

Planning for MnDHO began in the 1990s. At the time it was hailed as one of the few times that people with disabilities had been actively involved in creating a solution to the health care maze they face daily.

MnDHO offers specialized services for people with physical disabilities and coordination of health care and support services. It is designed to combine physician, hospital, home care, nursing home care, home and community-based services and other care into one coordinated care system. It initially served residents of Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties, ages 18-65.

It was recently expanded to include Carver, Scott and Washington counties.

Feldman said having to make the decision to end the program was difficult. She also said that UCare staff will be working hard to help everyone transition to a different option before MnDHO closes. The decision to end this program is not only a disappointment for MnDHO members; it is also met with real sadness by the UCare, DHS and AXIS Healthcare workers, who have been closely involved with MnDHO.

The program was met with high hopes when it began. In a January 2002 Access Press guest editorial, the Minnesota Disability Health Options Advisory Committee wrote “In MnDHO, the person is the focus of care, not just their disability. It allows people to get the support they need, when and how they need it, so that they can live their lives as they decide. The committee applauds the partners – UCare Minnesota, AXIS Healthcare and DHS – for stepping forward to develop this new project. This project took years in the making,” the editorial stated. “We feel confident that the partners involved understand the challenges faced by people with disabilities.”

In the letter, Feldman stated the decision to close MnDHO had only occurred after much time was spent researching options to keep the program going. UCare is taking this action after facing federal Medicare payment cuts. These cuts, combined with state budget cuts and the uncertainty for future funding, make the MnDHO program unsustainable for UCare to operate. Like many other health and human services cuts the program continues to be vulnerable.

UCare wanted to alert the disability community as well as Axis Healthcare members to this news as soon as possible to give members time to select other programs. The decision to end MnDHO does not affect other UCare contracts including UCare Families and Children, Minnesota Senior Health Care Options (MSHO), Special Needs Basic Care (SNBC), and Minnesota Senior Care Plus (MSC+). Axis Healthcare will continue to operate as a care coordination care system. In addition to MnDHO they currently contract to provide care coordination for SNBC. This change will not affect eligibility for Medical Assistance.

Participants in MnDHO are being told they don’t need to take any action at this time. Member information meetings will be held this summer. During those meetings, representatives of UCare, AXIS Healthcare, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the Disability/Senior Linkage Lines, and county human services will provide resources and information about members’ options. The meeting schedule has not been released yet. Many MnDHO members receive home and community-based services such as personal care attendant (PCA) and waiver services. DHS will work with the counties to plan for the transition of these services from UCare to your county. For those who are eligible, home and community-based services will be managed through the county fee-for-service system. Members will receive more information about this change and how will it affect them later this summer.

Care team members, UCare and Axis staff and DHS are prepared to answer member questions. Anyone with questions may call UCare representatives at 612-676-3554 or 1-800-707-1711 (toll free), or the Disability Linkage Line at 1-866-333-2466 (toll free).

If you are hearing impaired, contact our TTY line at 612-676-6810 or 1-800-688-2534 (toll free).

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