Investigation of attendant hours is questioned

The issue of overbilling by personal care attendant (PCA) services in Minnesota continues to roil Minnesotans who rely on those services. The overbilling issues have been raised by a state investigation and this spring by the Star Tribune.

Steve Larson, The Arc of Minnesota’s Public Policy Director, responded to the investigation in a letter to the Star Tribune. He stated that while there should be accountability for billing errors and fraud, PCA services are essential to those who receive them, and he cited reasons for the expansion of the program in recent years. “The number of people served—and as a result, the amount of money spent on it, increased dramatically . . . because many people with disabilities were on waiting lists for other services or needed to be moved out of more costly institutions,” Larson stated. “Other services that could have helped them were capped or cut to help balance the budget. PCA services have been essential in filling the gaps.”

David Hancox, Executive Director for the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living, also wrote a response. Hancox stated that the reporters were not giving the whole picture in the figures they cited. The percentage of PCAs who were being investigated for working more hours than allowed by law was only .2% of all PCAs currently being employed. “If [PCAs] are guilty of fraudulent or criminal behavior they should be held accountable,” Hancox said, but “clearly, an overwhelming majority of (PCAs) are honest and hard-working.” He also mentioned that the amount of money the state paid for PCAs who worked more hours than they were allowed was min-iscule in comparison to the amount of money spent on the program as a whole (.007% of total program costs). “What the story lacks is perspective,” Hancox stated.

Kathy Sanders, a single parent of an adult daughter with significant behavior challenges, cautioned against an overreaction to any charges of fraud and overbilling. “Until earlier this year, I received 13 hours of help daily from PCAs for my daughter Jenny,” Sanders said. “Jenny has significant disabilities and requires 24-hour care. “ Unfortunately, the changes made in 2009 in response to fraud accusations meant large service cuts for some families, including the Sanders. “We now get about half the staffing hours Jenny was receiving,” Sanders said. “In addition, the day program Jenny attends may no longer be able to serve her because of her behaviors and needs. If she can’t stay there, there are no other alternatives during the day, and I won’t have enough PCA hours each week to continue working full-time, myself. “If more changes are made to the PCA program,” Sanders said,” they should not hurt other families like last year’s changes have already hurt ours.”

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