Gov. Scott Walker is proposing sweeping changes to the state’s long-term care programs for the elderly and disabled, but the lack of detail has advocates concerned.
Walker’s 2015-17 budget calls for expanding the Family Care program statewide by Jan. 1, 2017. Currently, some individuals are receiving long-term care under other programs including IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct).
“The governor’s Family Care reforms end the state’s fragmented delivery of health and long-term care, while establishing the focus on the overall health and well-being of our members,” said Kitty Rhoades, secretary of the state Department of Health Services, in recent testimony before the Joint Finance Committee.
The budget would eliminate the state statute that created the IRIS program, which currently serves more than 11,000 people with long-term care needs. Rhoades said the services provided to these individuals will continue.
“I spent eight years building self-directed services,” said Rhoades, a former Republican legislator. “I’m not letting up.”
But Barbara Beckert, director of Disability Rights Wisconsin’s Milwaukee office, said the self-direction option of Family Care is “far more limited and has less flexibility” than IRIS. Beckert said few specifics have been provided about the change, and there has been no demonstration that it will lead to fiscal savings.
Beckert is also concerned about the state’s proposal to require managed care organizations to operate statewide as opposed to just in a particular region.
“I’m very dubious that’s going to be a smooth transition and I’m very worried about the safety, independence and well-being of the 55,000 individuals who are counting on these services for their quality of life,” Beckert said.
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