Priorities include personal care attendant pay rates

When the 2013 Minnesota Legislature gavels into session Jan. 8, the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD) will be ready with its legislative agenda. However, leaders of the state’s disability groups are all too aware that many uncertainties remain about the session. That means the agenda adopted Oct. 29 at MN-CCD’s annual meeting could see changes.

MN-CCD will be out in force at the state capitol in 2013. Self-advocates will be there, many with homemade signs.

“We have to think of this (legislative agenda) as a guiding document,” said Anni Simons. MN-CCD’s point person on public policy. “We also have to understand that it’s a dynamic, changing document.”

State House and Senate seats, and the political balance of each body, were up for grabs in the Nov. 6 election. That could bring changes in leadership to the House and Senate, and to committees. Changes at the federal level could also play a role in terms of effects on state programs and services.

MN-CCD legislative subcommittees reviewed disability community issues for several months. Each committee brought forward its priority issues. MN-CCD members reviewed the subcommittees’ work in September. Each member organization then ranked issues by importance, to set the final agenda.

Another unknown on some issues, such as disability waiver rates, is that proposals still are taking shape. “We don’t know what the proposal is yet, so we don’t know how to support it,” said Steve Larson of The Arc Minnesota, MN-CCD’s outgoing co-chairman.

About 30 proposals were taken and melded into four major themes, said Simons. Although the agenda contains a list of the 30 items, MN-CCD and its individual member groups will easily be following 100 different issues and dozens and dozens of bills. One future task before the session starts is to find out which organizations are taking the lead on specific issues.

The first priority for 2013 is to repeal the 20 percent cut in rates for family members who serve as personal care attendants or PCAs. The second-highest priority is to support the passage of Reform 2020 components related to increased coordination of acute and long-term care services. The third priority is to support the inclusion of critical disability services in the essential benefit set established in conjunction with Minnesota’s Health Insurance Exchange.

Other aspects of Reform 2020 ranked fourth and fifth, passage of components related to increased “Self Directed” options within the service system, and components related to transitioning from the current PCA program into Community First Services and Supports, and actively work to shape the operational details of this transition process and new service.

Other priorities in the top 10 list include support of components of the Disability Waivers Rate System that ensure access to quality long-term services and supports for Minnesota’s disability community; reduce use of prone restraints in schools; and support increased autism services coverage through Medicaid and private insurance. MN-CCD also supports components of the Disability Waivers Rate System that ensure access to quality employment support services for Minnesota’s disability community and supports passage of recommendations from the Care Integration and Payment Reform work group.

One of the four areas of focus is Reform 2020. As details of Reform 2020 are further developed during the 2013 session, MN-CCD will support specific components of this redesign initiative that increase access to high-quality services for Minnesotans with disabilities in the areas of employment supports, Community First Services and Supports, increased coordination of acute and long term care services, self-directed services, and the Demonstration of Innovative Approaches to Service Coordination for Children.

A second focus is the Disability Waiver Rate System. Fundamental components of the system are expected to advance during the 2013 legislative session. MN-CCD will support system components that preserve the ability of organizations to provide critical disability services including health and long-term care services, employment supports and increased residential options.

The third area is state healthcare reforms, as state lawmakers are expected to move forward with a number of reforms this session. MN-CCD will work to ensure that the critical healthcare needs of the disability community are reflected in these reforms through the inclusion of specific services in the Health Insurance Exchange essential benefit set and the advancement of the recommendations of the Care Integration and Payment Reform work group.

MN-CCD will support additional policy changes that will advance the independence of Minnesotans with disabilities including specific Olmstead recommendations, increased access to non-emergency medical transportation and other public transportation options, increased bullying prevention measures in schools, a narrowed list of “unallowable” items under the consumer directed community supports program, improvements to the state’s special education system and strengthened quality assurance measures.

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