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Budget committee plans to reject Walker’s changes to long-term care programs

File photo.
File photo.
MADISON – When the Legislature’s budget committee meets Wednesday, lawmakers plan to reject a proposal in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget that would expand the state’s Family Care program and end the IRIS program.The committee’s co-chairs, Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, announced earlier this month that they want a “better product” than what the governor’s budget lays out.“We’re not going to move forward, but we’re always going to be looking for reforms with the stakeholders at the table,” Nygren told FOX 11 Tuesday. “We know the trend lines are heading in the wrong direction. We’ve got more and more people coming onto the programs and the costs are going up.”Nygren and Darling said they’d vote for a motion to direct the Department of Health Services to develop a new plan to restructure the state’s long-term care programs and prepare a request to the federal government for permission to implement it.Democrats on the budget committee also say the governor's changes should be rejected.Family Care, a Medicaid program, provides managed long-term care for the elderly and disabled designed to keep them in their homes. About 41,000 people are enrolled in the program. IRIS, which stands for Include, Respect, I-Self-Direct, is a related long-term care program that provides self-directed assistance with bathing, dressing and other needs. About 11,000 people are enrolled in that program. Both programs are currently available in 57 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties and are scheduled to expand to an additional seven counties this calendar year.The governor’s budget calls for seeking a federal waiver to allow the state Department of Health Services to expand Family Care services statewide by Jan. 1, 2017. The budget would cut $14 million from the program to reflect anticipated increases in county contributions. DHS also would be required to seek a federal waiver to repeal state statutes that lay out the parameters for managed care organizations that apply for permits to administer Family Care services. Statutes that require the state insurance commissioner to regulate the care organizations would disappear.The budget also would eliminate IRIS but allow Family Care enrollees to self-direct services. DHS also would be required to seek a federal waiver seeking to repeal state statutes that lay out the parameters for managed care organizations that apply to for permits to administer Family Care services and require the state insurance commissioner to regulate the organizations.DHS officials, who serve at the pleasure of the Walker administration, have said the changes would create a better-coordinated care net. Advocates for the disabled, however, have balked at the plan. They say the moves would allow larger for-profit organizations into the market, reducing options for enrollees, the loss of IRIS could be devastating for disabled people who rely on it for help preparing meals and cleaning their homes.