News from Aging Services of Minnesota:
Today, Attorney General Lori Swanson initiated a court action to protect essential services and filed documents in Ramsey County Court on behalf of the state. In her petition to the court, the Attorney General requested that the court mandate that essential state government services continue in the event that the budget impasse is not resolved. The Attorney General also requested that each of the state agencies determine what are core functions performed by it. The list of core services would be verified by the Department of Management and Budget. The Attorney General also proposed that a special master be appointed by the Court to make recommendations that may arise from this action.
Without a court order providing for the continued provision of essential state services, the executive and judicial branches of state government would completely shut down1.
The good news is that the Attorney General appears to be taking a similar approach to that used in 2005 and 2001, and Medicaid payments are included in the proposed list of essential services. To that end, the Attorney General attached the Court Orders from 2001 and 2005 related to this issue. In both instances Medical Assistance payments were included in the list of essential services.
Moreover, while the Attorney General does not request the Court to find Medical Assistance payments to be essential as a matter of law, it appears that her office would support that position. In the filing, the Attorney General listed some of the consequences of a shutdown that would adversely impact the public interest. The Attorney General provided examples of consequences of failing to continue essential government services, including funding for Medical Assistance, and specifically highlighted residents in nursing homes. The Attorney General wrote:
“Over 600,000 low income senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, pregnant women and children and their parents rely on Medical Assistance. Without funding, their health could be jeopardized or disrupted, and the State would be in violation of its obligations to the federal government. Many of these people are low-income senior citizens in nursing homes.”
Aging Services of Minnesota is actively working to ensure that essential services are defined to include payments necessary to fund Medical Assistance program services, including payments to care centers and Elderly Waiver providers. While the Attorney General’s position is positive for us, we will also take additional action to advocate in support of this position. We are currently consulting with our attorneys to determine the next proper course of action.
Just last Friday, Aging Services staff and members met with Attorney General Lori Swanson to make our case that Medical Assistance payments should continue during a government shutdown. Aging Services was able to secure the meeting through our strong relationship between her office and our legislative counsel. In addition to Aging Services’ staff, several of our members attended the meeting, including: Bob Dahl, President/CEO of Elim Care; John Huhn, COO, Walker Methodist; John Tschida, Vice President of Public Affairs and Research, Courage Center; Sarah Work, Director of Administration, Welcome Home Management Company; Annette Greely, Director of Assisted Living, Guardian Angels and Wayne Olson,Senior Vice President of Healthcare, Volunteers of America.
Aging Services staff presented data to provide a statewide picture of the role Medical Assistance plays in older adult services, and information about the financial stability of older adult service providers. Members described some of their concerns if a shutdown resulted in a suspension of Medical Assistance payments.
The Attorney General was appreciative of the information, and while she could not provide any specific information about next steps in the process, she did indicate that Medical Assistance payments were found to be essential services in 2001 and 2005, which are the only two times this issue has been considered by the courts. The Attorney General also indicated that she would fight to ensure that Medical Assistance payments would continue.
The Attorney General requested additional information regarding the potential impact of a government shutdown. She is especially interested in providers that are financially frail–those that cannot afford a stoppage in MA payments. She is also interested in anecdotes regarding residents that rely on MA payments, and the impact on individuals. Finally, her office is interested in any of the “less obvious” impacts to other services such as transportation, nutrition programs, GRH payments, etc. Aging Services has offered to gather these stories, and we are on a tight deadline, as we need these stories by the close of business today.
Click here to read the Attorney General’s Petition (please note that it is 87 pages long) and clickhttp://www.agingservicesmn.org/inc/data/Temporary_Funding_Core_Functions.pdf to read the Attorney General’s Memordandum in support of the Petition.
Please submit information or stories to Kari Thurlow at email@example.com.
1Only the Department of Agriculture, the Board of Animal Health and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute have been funded to date. There are also a few government functions that are funded by standing appropriations, such as aid for school districts and local governments, that would not be impacted by a government shutdown.