Last week the Health and Human Services Budget Conference Committee completed “phase one” of their budget process, by completing a conference committee bill. The committee does not plan to close up the bill and immediately send this bill to the Governor. Rather, the intent was to reconcile differences between the House and Senate positions so that they can negotiate a final deal with the Governor. Some items in the bill, if ultimately adopted in negotiations with the Governor, would have major implications for older adult services.
For older adult services, the results are decidedly mixed. The Elderly Waiver program is proposed to take a devastating $32.4 million in cuts. While we knew that the EW program was vulnerable to cuts in this budget bill, this was somewhat of an unexpected move by the conference committee, as it essentially adopted all of the cuts to the EW program proposed by the House and all of the cuts to the EW program proposed by the Senate, making the outcome worse than what was originally in either bill.
The EW cuts include a 10 percent reduction in customized living rates. Combined with previous cuts to customized living, many providers will have experienced a reduction of more than 20 percent in EW funding in the last three years. This particular cut is somewhat “hidden” on the budget spreadsheets, because it is bundled with two other cuts to the Elderly Waiver program on a line called “Manage Elderly Waiver and Alternative Care Programs.” Other reductions to the EW program include a two-year enrollment freeze in the EW program, eligibility changes for 24-Hour Customized Living and reductions to Case Mix L rates. Our focus in the next week will be to minimize these cuts during the final negotiations.
Now is the time to contact legislators and let them know your concerns about the conference committee’s budget plan. Members who participate in Elderly Waiver are encouraged to emphasize the impact of a 10% rate cut on their ability to continue providing services to MA clients.
This is a key time in the legislative session, and we hope that you will contact your legislators as soon as possible to reinforce our message about the conference committee bill. The legislative session will end on May 23, so legislators and the Governor will be working hard in the next nine days to try to resolve the budget issues before the end of the session.