Tim's Desk -- August 2021

Tim's Desk -- August 2021

Well, as you know, it’s been a long hot month. The one blessing is the humidity has been staying low, which makes it much more tolerable. I do enjoy the heat. It’s easier for me to cool down in the summer than warm up in the winter.

We had a bonanza at the legislature this year. The disability community came away from the session with more positive legislation than I’ve seen in 20 years. A special thanks goes out to Sen. Jim Abeler (R – Anoka), Sen. Michelle Benson (R – Ham Lake), Sen, John Hoffman (DFL – Champlain), Rep. Tina Schultz (DFL – Duluth) and Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL – Rochester) for all the hard work and dedication to the disability community and their constituents throughout the state of Minnesota. You’ll read about the legislation in this issue and over the coming months. Be sure to follow it because it’s good news.

On the critical issue of personal care attendant (PCA) reimbursement rates, the new legislation includes a 10.10 percent PCA wage increase. Yes, 10.10 percent. In terms of precedent, it’s unbelievable and makes up for a lot of years when it was 0.0 percent. It’s the largest single increase I’ve ever seen in the PCA program.

The increase will go into effect on October 1, 2021 or when the federal government approves it, whichever comes latest. The talk is that the federal government will approve it before October 1. Skilled nursing also got a 5 percent increase which will help them recruit more home care nurses, and make the wage available for skilled nursing more competitive.

Abeler shepherded along language to expand the qualifications for the PCA Enhanced Pay Rate, and it will now be available for persons who require ten hours of PCA support a day instead of 12 hours. That means that PCAs who work for clients who require services for 10 hours or more per day will be able to apply for the wage rate that is 7.5 percent higher than standard— and this is on top of the 10.10 percent increase in the standard rate. It is estimated that the expansion from 12 hours to 10 hours will cost about $1.3 million per year and will affect several thousands of PCAs. It won’t go into effect until January 1 2022.

From the beginning of the enhanced rate debate, Abeler has been a proponent for the 10 hours and over criteria. He conceded a couple years ago to the 12 hour threshold, but kept fighting for a more reasonable eligibility measure.

One other item in the Health and Human Services omnibus bill was a small but important piece that veteran activist Jeff Bangsberg has been working on. It ensures that PCAs are permitted to drive and accompany their clients, in whatever form of transportation they choose, as an independent activity of daily living. This action will also go into effect January 1, 2022. The legislature provided approximately $5 to $6 million for this change. I don’t quite understand what the related costs will be, when those PCAs would be on the clock anyway if the client stated home. There should be no extra cost, I would think.

Access Press has hired a new executive director, Holly Anderson. She has great credentials with previous experience at the MS Society. She brings a dedication to our community. Her email address is holly@accesspress.org. An article about her and new Advertising Manager Staci Reay is in this issue. Welcome them, as I do, to continue the good work of Access Press.

If you’re looking for me, I’m here at Tim’s Desk. My new email at Access Press is Tim.Benjamin@accesspress.org