Parents want Medical Assistance fees reduced

Medical Assistance (MA) costs are also a concern this legislative session for parents who pay for coverage of in-home supports and medical services for their children with disabilities. A bill to reduce fees passed Minnesota House and Senate policy committees before state lawmakers went on Easter/Passover recess.

Parents whose incomes would normally be too high to quality for MA have been able to receive coverage for in-home supports and medical services through special MA programs. Families pay a sliding scale fees in addition to premiums for other health care coverage for their families.

But over the past decade state lawmakers have increased parental fees as one measure to balance the state budget, most notably in 2003 and 2010. For many Minnesota families the fees have become a burden, to the point of putting care out of reach. In some cases, fees have been as high as a family’s mortgage payment or equal to the amount of state taxes the family already pays. Some families have seen their monthly fees go up by 200% or more because of the rate hikes.

To provide families some financial relief, Rep. Patti Fritz (DFL-Faribault) and introduced House File 1156/Senate File 980, which would reduce parental fees to levels parents paid before the 2010 fee hike. Fees would be reduced what families pay by $1.2 million.

At one hearing last month, Tim Kasemodel, Wayzata, testified about his family’s unaffordable fees and highlighted other costly out-of-pocket expenses they incur to meet the needs of their son with disabilities. He and his wife saw a dramatic drop in their income in the past year, but no accompanying drop in their fees. As a result, they have emptied their savings and drawn tens of thousands of dollars from a retirement account.

Leslie Sieleni, whose 12-year-old son Sean has Down syndrome, also told of her family’s struggles.

After realizing that they couldn’t provide for all Sean’s needs by themselves, the family applied for Personal Care Attendant services through MA, only to receive a bill for $8,000 a year for parental fees to pay for those services.

This is twice the deductible on their family’s private health insurance policy. The family is now considering dropping their son’s services.

Steve Larson, Senior Policy Director for The Arc Minnesota, also testified in support of reducing parental fees legislation alongside the parents. Other disability advocates attended additional hearings to show support for the bill.

As of Access Press deadline, the two bills were in the hands of the House and Senate Human Services finance committees.

Information for this story is from The Arc Minnesota