Administration Update: Budget News, CCS Study, ABLE Act

A substitute version of the FY2016-2017 biennial budget bill (HB 64) has moved on to the Senate (see Pipeline EXTRA!, overview of House changes). It would: require all DODD decisions on sheltered workshops to come before the legislature; create a Developmental Center (DC) Closure Review Commission and decrease DC funding by $80 million over the biennium; adopt a new Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) policy agreed to by stakeholders and the Administration; and, decrease state waiver funds. DODD Director John Martin will provide testimony on May 14 at the Ohio Statehouse.

Study Focuses on Need for System Change, Community-Based Services

The Center for Community Solutions (CCS) recently released a study, reporting that Ohio relies on institutional care and sheltered workshops. The study, Ohio at a Crossroads: Developmental Disabilities in Ohio, offers recommendations for a more integrated system. Recommendations include:

  • Improve the availability of Medicaid waiver services, and identify a plan to eliminate the waiting list;
  • Examine funding inequity among counties, and improve funding for the tax-equity line item in the state budget;
  • Enhance funding for community employment supports, and streamline access to services;
  • Accelerate Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) downsizing and conversion;
  • Address wage issues of the direct care workforce, and monitor employee turnover and provider quality; and,
  • Develop additional housing supports necessary to fully support community integration.

DODD Director John Martin said that the recommendations outlined in the CCS report support the Department’s policy objectives to increase opportunities for community participation while strengthening the experience for individuals who receive facility-based care. He observed,

“The individual is the core of our system. Our priority is to offer a broad range of services that meet the varying needs of the more than 90,000 individuals we serve. Community participation and facility-based care isn’t an either/or proposition. Our goal is to honor the choice of individuals – to help those people who want to live in the community to do so, and help those people who want to live in an ICF to do so.”

Director Martin said several initiatives in the proposed FY2016-2017 Executive Budget are designed to meet those objectives. Proposals include:

  • Adding approximately 3,000 waivers (2,000 Individual Options waivers and 1,000 Self-Empowered Life Funding waivers) to reduce the waiting list and help those who want to move from an ICF into the community to do so. These would be state-funded waivers, and don’t include increases in waiver enrollment supported by local funds;
  • Modernizing the ICF program to increase space and privacy for individuals who live in an ICF;
  • Strengthening the direct care workforce through a six percent rate increase, and expanded funding for training; and,
  • Developing new employment and day services options. A new service package would increase opportunities for community participation and community employment, and help providers make necessary changes to comply with the new rule from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Director Martin noted,

“Ohio is at a crossroads, and at a point of transformational change. The Governor’s historic investment in our system will enable us to serve more individuals, and to strengthen the wide range of services individuals receive.”

The Senate will continue its deliberations on the budget bill throughout April and May. After passage by the Senate, the bill will be reviewed by a Conference Committee comprised of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The budget must be finalized by the end of the state fiscal year, on June 30.

ABLE Act Update

Proposed legislation that would allow Ohioans with disabilities to create their own tax-advantaged savings accounts, the ABLE Act (Federal Fact Sheet) is an Ohio-specific adaptation of the federal ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act, which was signed into law last December. DODD attended a press conference earlier this month in support of the legislation. Legislators hope to complete work on it by this summer, so families could access the new option beginning January 1, 2016.

Currently, people with disabilities who receive federal benefits may not have more than $2,000 in assets, and must have a low monthly income. The bill would direct the State Treasurer to develop a program through which individuals are able to save money for a variety of expenses, including medical care, education, community-based supports, employment training, transportation, and housing. To be eligible for the tax-advantaged savings accounts, a person must meet standards established under the federal act, including standards for children who qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and adults who qualify for SSI with a disability diagnosis before age 26. The accounts, contributions, and distributions would not count toward determining eligibility for means-based public assistance.

Other Legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives Bill 188, Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment Act (TIME Act) directs the U.S. Secretary of Labor to discontinue issuing to any new profit or non-profit or governmental entity a sub-minimum wage certificate, and amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.  Learn more about this legislation at www.congress.gov.

For more information on these and other topics, check the online DODD Newsroom. We also invite you to share your feedback.

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