As this week draws to a close, there is a real concern about how the pending state shutdown will affect residents who utilize the state’s Medicaid system known as Elderly Waiver.
The Governor and legislative leaders are at loggerheads over resolving the state budget deficit. A government shutdown will become necessary if lawmakers do not reach an agreement on the budget before July 1st. In a shutdown scenario, only essential services, those government activities that are found to be critical to life, health and safety of Minnesotans, would continue. The determination about which services are “essential” is an issue that will be left to the courts to decide.
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. To that end, Aging Services staff and members met with Attorney General Lori Swanson today to make our case that Medical Assistance payments should continue during a government shutdown.
The meeting with the Attorney General was secured through close connections between the Attorney General and Aging Services’ 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; Shirley Barnes, CEO, Crest View Senior Communities and Wayne Olson, Senior Vice President of Healthcare, Volunteers of America.
At the heart of today’s discussion was whether or not Elderly Waiver/Medical Assistance would be considered an “essential service”. If it is determined that it is not a essential service, senior communities will face difficult decisions on how to maintain services to their residents, while facing a tough financial situation. Depending on the decision on essential services, and the duration of a government shutdown, residents may face not getting the services they need to live independently.
The Attorney General, and her staff, are asking individuals and organizations to provide the stories – What will a Government Shutdown Mean to You? They need to see how this will affect you, not only the buildings you work in, but in your personal lives. What is the impact on your residents, their families, your employees?
Aging Services will be working to collect these stories between now and Tuesday. They will be submitting your stories to the Attorney General’s office on Tuesday.
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, and we view that as a positive sign of support.
Here’s where we need your help: The Attorney General has also requested additional information regarding the potential impact of a government shutdown. Her office is especially interested in providers that are financially frail—those that cannot afford a stoppage in MA payments. Her office 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. If you are uncomfortable sharing the name of your facility or the names of individuals, you can chose to submit information without names. We have committed to gather these stories, and we are on a tight deadline, as we need these stories by the close of business on Monday.
Please submit information or stories to Kari Thurlow at [email protected].
In addition, contact your legislator’s today and encourage them to work out a fair budget proposal as soon as possible. Legislators are back in their hometown as the general session adjourned earlier this month.