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Medicaid looks to cut back on new disability program users

  • Author: Associated Press
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published September 3, 2015

KENAI — An Alaska Medicaid program that funds care for adults with developmental disabilities may cut the number of people it enrolls each year by 75 percent.

Medicaid's Intellectual and Developmental Disability waiver pays for the home-based care of nearly 2,000 people in the state with severe disabilities.

Currently 200 people are pulled from a waiting list and granted waivers each year, according to The Peninsula Clarion. Administrators have proposed dropping that number to 50.

Lisa McGuire of the state's Senior and Disability Service Division, which manages the waiver program, said the waitlist contained 746 names as of Aug. 25, though the actual figure fluctuates daily.

The waivers cost $160 million in fiscal year 2015, with the bill split between the state and federal Medicaid programs. Supporters of the proposal cite the state's struggling finances.

"All citizens are going to have to help them balance the budget," said Roy Scheller, executive director of Hope Community Resources, an agency that provides services under the waiver program. "More and more people are coming on. From a state perspective, then, there's a lot of people who have needs out there. How do you meet those needs at a time when the price of oil has dropped under $40 a barrel?"

Those who oppose the cuts argue that by reducing the number of waivers, the state would be reneging on its promise to focus on trimming the waitlist.

"I know times are tough," said Dennis Haas, Kenai chapter president of the Key Coalition, a developmental disability advocacy group. "If they would say to us 'This year we're only going to draw 50, but next year we'll do 100, and the year after 150, and we'll try to get back up to 200,' we could live with that. But to just arbitrarily cut it down to 50 without any hope for the future, I don't think that's fair."

Haas said the Key Coalition will take an official stance on the proposed reduction at a Sept. 11 statewide meeting.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Service's Senior and Disabilities Services Division is taking public comments on the proposal until Sept. 17.