Make an Impact with 2 Simple Words

This holiday season, you can make an impact with 2 simple words: Thank you.

Especially if you’re a Medicaid recipient, let the people in charge know that we need Medicaid, and let them know what it does for us. Tell them thank you, and ask them to keep directing funding to Medicaid. Send them a photo of the person who is helped by Medicaid.

This is what advocacy is. It’s so easy! Just speak up for what matters to you.

Here’s how:

Email DHS Director Gillespie

Email Governor Hutchinson:

other contact: governor.arkansas.gov/online-services/contact-us

Email any State Congressperson

Contact any Federal Congressman

Contact any elected official

ARChoices: Take Action

This is a long but important update from Kevin deLiban of Legal Aid of Arkansas on information about the NEW SYSTEM to determine hours for ARChoices that DHS will start using on January 1, 2019.

The public comment period is open until 11/7/18, and public meetings will be held from now until then.


(1) RUGs Update. Late Monday, the judge dissolved the injunction against RUGs, meaning that DHS will start allocating attendant care to new applicants for the program and will also re-assess people whose plans of care have expired. RUGs will only go back into effect for the next two-and-a-half months and then will be replaced by the new system described below. If anyone faces reductions because of RUGs during that time, they can call Legal Aid of Arkansas at 800-967-9224. We don’t anticipate more court challenges against RUGs (though that can always change), but we may be able to help with administrative appeal hearings.

Due to the hard work of people on the program, caregivers, attorneys (at Legal Aid of Arkansas, the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, and Disability Rights Arkansas), case managers, care agencies, journalists, and others, RUGs is definitely going away (DHS had no plans to switch to a new system before the litigation and public attention), about a thousand people avoided devastating RUGs-based cuts for several months (and at least couple dozen people kept their pre-RUGs hours for a year or longer), 150+ people with cerebral palsy are getting more hours than they otherwise would have due to discovery of a DHS software error, hundreds of people (including legislators and the wider public) have learned more about Medicaid home-care services and the importance of a fair system to determine hours, and a community of people are now activated around these issues. Justice only exists because people work to create it. Grateful for all of you who did so here. We lost along the way, too, and I think about the clients who passed away fearing or fighting cuts, clients who’ve been living with the cuts, and all the suffering we couldn’t stop. They keep me motivated.

(2) The New System. DHS finally released details of the new system it plans to use starting January 1, 2019. DHS’s own summary of the changes are attached. There is A LOT of information in here, so I’ll go through the major items.

New Assessment. Up to now, DHS was using the assessment tool known as ArPath, which had 286 questions. ArPath will be going away. The new assessment will be called ARIA and could have as many as 400 questions. It will be performed by a Registered Nurse who works for a private company named Optum. After the Optum RN comes out to do the assessment, the results will be sent to DHS for a determination about eligibility, the amount of hours someone gets, and what budget category someone fits in. This involves a separate visit by a DHS RN to do the care plan.

Questions/Unknowns:

~ Will people be given enough advance warning in order to get medical records or arrange for caregivers to be present so that the information in the assessment is accurate?

~ Will the new assessment take longer than the old assessment, which already took 60 to 120 minutes? Will the questions be understandable, relevant, and fair?

New Hour Determination System. RUGs used an algorithm that mixed a lot of different factors that didn’t seem to make obvious sense in order to place someone in a group with a fixed number of hours. The new system will be very different. It is called the “Task and Hour Standards.” Based on the ARIA assessment, an algorithm will rank each person from 0 to 3 in each key Activity of Daily Living (bathing, dressing, feeding, grooming, toileting, transferring, walking, cleaning, laundry, meal preparations, and shopping). Then, based on whether you get a 0, 1, 2, or 3, the DHS nurse (who comes in a separate visit from the Optum nurse) will determine how many minutes you get for that particular activity. For example, if you score a 3 on bathing, the DHS nurse can give you between 35 and 45 minutes. If you score a 2, the DHS nurse can give you between 15 and 30 minutes. If you score a 1, the DHS nurse can give you between 5 and 10 minutes. The DHS nurse will then figure out how many times per week you need to do a particular task. The DHS nurse will then add up all the minutes you get for each ADL and give you a monthly number of hours.

Questions/Unknowns:

~ DHS hasn’t said how the algorithm will figure out if you are a 1 or 2 or 3 for any particular ADL.

~ DHS hasn’t stated the frequency that certain tasks will be allowed. Is bathing a daily task? Do people get to be dressed twice per day (once into the day’s clothes; once into bedtime clothes)? Will the frequencies allowed match actual care needs?

~ DHS has said that the time given will be reduced by the amount of time that family, friends, or others do that same task voluntarily. It is not known how this will affect people with family caregivers.

~ DHS has said that no time will be given for the cleaning of shared spaces when the caregiver lives with the beneficiary. There could be other reductions for people who live with their caregiver.

~ DHS has said that nurses can request to go outside the amount of time allowed if there are “extenuating circumstances” and the nurse receives supervisor approval. For example, this means someone may be able to get 55 minutes for bathing even though the highest amount officially available is 45 minutes. BUT, these adjustments might not mean much because of the budget limits described below.

~ Even if you are allowed a particular amount of hours under the Task and Hour Standards, you might not actually get that number of hours because of the new overall budget limits described below.

• New Overall Budget Limits. DHS is doing something it has not done before in ARChoices, AAPD, or Elder Choices. It is setting a hard budget cap for services an individual on the program can receive, regardless of the amount of care DHS’s own Task and Hours Standards says someone needs. There are three budget categories–Intensive, Intermediate, and Preventative. An algorithm will use the answers to the assessment to put you into one these three groups. People in the Intensive group can get no more than $30,000 worth of services in a year ($2,500 in a month). People in the Intermediate group can get no more than $20,000 worth of services in a year ($1,667 per month). People in the Preventive group get $5,000 in a year ($417 per month).

So, even if the Task and Hours Standards states that you need 200 hours in a month, you cannot get those 200 hours if they cost more than is allowed by your budget limit. For example, your budget limit might only allow you to “buy” 150 hours per month (or some other number less than 200).

Questions/Unknowns:

~ DHS has not stated the actual price of the services so that you can predict the number of hours actually possible under the budget limits. However, if you take the standard attendant care rate of $18 per hour, the highest budget level (Intensive, which allows $2,500 per month), would only allow 139 hours per month. This would not be enough for many people. The next highest budget limit (Intermediate, $1,667 per month) would only allow 93 hours per month (at the rate of $18 per hour for attendant care).

~ DHS has stated to media that the cost of attendant care would be less for people who hire their own caregivers instead of using an agency (meaning they could possibly get more hours under the budget limit), but that would seem to give far fewer hours to people who use agencies than people who hire their own caregivers.

~ DHS has stated to media that up to 64 hours of personal care hours may be available apart from this, but that is not confirmed in policy and may still not be enough care for many people who have higher needs.

~ DHS’s process to arrive at these $30,000/$20,000/$5,000 categories has not been independently verified to be reliable. These amounts could be arbitrary. DHS says they are based on the cost of nursing home care, but DHS has given other figures that state nursing home care costs much more than $30,000 per year (these other DHS estimates have put the cost of nursing homes at more like $60,000 per year).

~ DHS did not include in the public documents anything about how the budget limits will actually affect people. How many people will be put into each category? How many people will face cuts because of placement in a particular category?

~ DHS has stated that ARChoices beneficiaries who were on the program in 2018 and who received more than $30,000 in services will not face a cut due to the budget limits the first year. Instead, their budget limit will be the cost of the services they received in 2018. This is known as “grandfathering” people into the program. So, people with higher needs may be able to keep what they got in 2018 if the Task and Hour Standards determination shows they need that many hours.

~ Apart from the “grandfathering,” DHS has stated that the budget limit can be temporarily adjusted upward for one year through an “exceptions process” for “exceptional, unexpected circumstances.” DHS stated that these “exceptional, unexpected circumstances” might include the death of a caregiver or recent release from a facility.

• Will the new system provide enough care? Compared to the system of nurse discretion, RUGs was harmful to our clients because it meant huge cuts in hours for so many people, especially people with the most severe needs. It is not clear if the new system will give people any more hours than RUGs did. It is not clear if the new system will give people enough hours to meet their actual care needs and keep individuals out of nursing homes. DHS has stated that the changes will cut Medicaid spending by about $10 million the first year and about $14 million the second year. If spending cuts are the goal, increased care may not be part of the plan.

• Is it understandable? RUGs involved 20 pages of computer code that didn’t make sense to our clients. The new system seems to be complicated in a different way. First, people will have to figure out how the 400-question assessment turns into a score for each ADL on the Task and Hour Standard (how many minutes you get for each ADL). And, we don’t know if that will make sense. Second, people will have to figure out how the assessment turns into a Budget Limit category. Some people may be qualified for hours under the Task and Hour Standard that they can’t actually get because of the Budget Limit category. These complications may mean that people on the program may not be able to fairly contest decisions about the care they are allotted.

(3) Public Comment. Anyone can participate in the public comment process. Comments can be sent by email to becky.murphy@dhs.arkansas.gov or by mail to Office of Policy Coordination and Promulgation, P.O. Box 1437, Slot S295, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203-1437. Comments must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on November 7.

(4) Public Meetings. Public comment will also be accepted at public meetings. The meetings are at the following times and places. Some of these meeting places are different from the meetings about ARChoices that were held in summer.

Fort Smith, 10/15, 5 p.m., Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, 7000 Chad Colley Blvd
Monticello, 10/18, 5 p.m., Drew Memorial Hospital Conf. A., 778 Scoggin Dr.
Hope, 10/22, 5 p.m., UA Hope Hempstead Hall, 2500 South Main St.
Little Rock, 10/29, 5 p.m., Arkansas Enterprises for the Developmentally Disabled, 105 E Roosevelt Rd
Jonesboro, 11/7, 5 p.m., St. Bernard’s Medical Center Auditorium, 225 E. Jackson Ave.

(5) Copy of the Full Materials. I could not cover all the changes being made. The full materials can be downloaded here. The full materials have information on other important changes being made to this program, Independent Choices, and the Assisted Living waiver program. For example, the rates of Assisted Living providers are facing significant cuts, which may mean that fewer people can get into an assisted living facility and more people may have to choose a nursing home instead.


This update was provided by Kevin De Liban of Legal Aid. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to him:

Kevin De Liban, Attorney
Economic Justice Practice Group Leader
Legal Aid of Arkansas–West Memphis
310 Mid-Continent Plaza, Suite 420
West Memphis, AR 72301
Phone: (870) 732-6370 x. 2206

ARChoices Update

Here’s the latest on what has been happening with ARChoices directly from our friends at Legal Aid:

(1) Second Legislative Hearing. When I last wrote, the Public Health committee of the legislature gave the RUGs algorithm an “unfavorable” review, meaning that the committee did not like it. The RUGs then went before the Rules and Regulations subcommittee. This subcommittee can only disapprove a regulation in narrow circumstances, so the RUGs was approved as a short-term measure to allow DHS to give attendant care to new applicants and to make new determinations for people up for reassessment. But, the chairperson said this:
The RUGs has not proven to be holistic in assessing the needs of the patients. Your presence here today has not fallen on deaf ears and, moving forward, because of your intense pressure, it is duly noted that RUGs is not the system we want serving the needs of Arkansans with disabilities. I believe it would be fair to say that you have the attention and the ears of the legislative branch to assure that your needs are moving forward. While we may not agree 100% on everything, the one thing we know is we can’t stay where we are. And while this process continues out after we do our duty today, then we will work to make sure that we don’t revisit this chapter again.
Even though RUGs was approved, the statement is great news for people hurt by the RUGs. Even if RUGs comes back in the short-term (it might not; see below for updates on the court case), it looks like the legislature won’t allow it to go on beyond December or early 2019. And, the public, media, and legislature will all take a close look at whatever new system DHS eventually comes up with. Personally, it was especially inspiring to see all the people most affected and their families come out and speak at the public forums or at the legislature, offer written comments, and lead the public effort (Legal Aid didn’t organize it).  And, this would not have happened without all the thoughtful and caring providers and other advocates who stepped up. It’s been wonderful to work with everyone.
(2) New System. DHS kept talking about a new system it would implement as of 1/1/19. DHS said that it would start the public comment process on 10/1/18. As of today, nothing has been published about it. Legal Aid will let everyone know when the official proposed rule comes out. The unofficial drafts we’ve seen suggest that it might be easier to understand than RUGs, but the unofficial drafts make it seem unlikely the new system will offer enough care hours for the patients with the highest needs.
(3) Court Case. Because the legislature approved the RUGs, DHS was going to start using it again as of yesterday. DHS asked the court to remove the injunction that stops them from doing that. DHS claims that it followed the proper process to adopt the rule. Today, Legal Aid, on behalf of our plaintiffs, filed an objection and asked the judge to keep the injunction in place (it is attached if you want to read the full legal document). DHS’s public comment process appears to be a sham. 43 different people criticized the RUGs for allowing inadequate care and not taking into account a nurse or doctor opinion in making hour determinations. They offered concrete ideas about alternatives. DHS didn’t even try to address the criticisms or alternatives, which the law requires it to do. Only 1 person was fully supportive of RUGs.
Our filing means that people who have applied for ARChoices services may be further delayed in getting them. DHS keeps saying that it has no lawful way to allocate attendant care, but we disagree and keep arguing that DHS can use the system of nurse discretion in place before RUGs. We are very sympathetic to the people who are waiting on services and understand they are caught up in this. However, Legal Aid has a duty to serve our clients. All of our plaintiffs (and many other clients) have been cut by the RUGs in the past. And, because DHS hasn’t been able to re-assess them for two years, they could be first in line for re-assessment. We tried to negotiate with DHS to get a formal, written agreement to ensure our clients would be safe, but DHS would not do anything formal. We had to file this objection to try to protect our plaintiffs. We have another legal case pending that could get the assessments and allocations started again with nurse discretion and will continue pursuing that option.

Contact:

Kevin De Liban, Attorney
Economic Justice Practice Group Leader
Legal Aid of Arkansas–West Memphis
310 Mid-Continent Plaza, Suite 420
West Memphis, AR 72301
Phone: (870) 732-6370 x. 2206

How to Best Communicate with Legislators

read the artic

If you can’t see the graphic above, you can read the article.

AR Works: Update from Legal Aid

Legal Aid of Arkansas sent the following update and wants everyone to know this important information.


We’re writing to let you know the latest information on the work requirements in the Arkansas Works program. With the work requirements now in effect, Legal Aid is available to help beneficiaries understand how to comply and how to assert their legal rights. Anyone affected is welcome to call our special Medicaid line–(800) 967-9224 and press 4. 

Lawsuit: Because of the widespread loss of coverage these work requirements are likely to cause for our clients, Legal Aid of Arkansas has filed a federal lawsuit in Washington DC. While that lawsuit is moving along, we want to make sure people have all the information they need to give them the best chance of keeping their coverage.

Letters of Non-ComplianceMany beneficiaries will have already received notices for non-compliance for the month of July. The notices will have a date of August 6 on them. For some people, this is their second month of non-compliance, and they will be terminated as of September 1 if they do not report compliance in August. For others, this is just the first month of non-compliance, but that means their care is threatened for future months. DHS reported that 72% of people who had to go online in June did not do so. That’s about 7,400 people, and we expect similar numbers for July, which are set to come out later this week.

Resources for People AffectedAnyone who receives notices of non-compliance is welcome to call Legal Aid for information about the program and their legal rights. We have a special Medicaid line–just call (800) 967-9224 and press 4. If someone doesn’t answer right away, we’ll get back with them within a few business hours. You (or they) are also welcome to call me at x. 2206 or Trevor Hawkins at x. 6313.

Here are other ways you can spread the word about the changes: 

(1) Share the Facebook video. This explains the latest on the lawsuit and how to comply with the work requirements:  https://www.facebook.com/arlegalaid/videos/2110260212381560/

(2) Share the flyer

and this (Front/back) handout. 

(3)  Invite us to talk to  your group, community, staff, or clients. We can accommodate any form of participation (in-person, video, phone), various languages, and any time limitations.

Contact:

Kevin De Liban, Attorney

Economic Justice Practice Group Leader

Legal Aid of Arkansas–West Memphis

310 Mid-Continent Plaza, Suite 420

West Memphis, AR 72301

Phone: (870) 732-6370 x. 2206

Fax: (870) 732-6373

Facebook Twitter

Happy Birthday, Medicaid!

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On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law. For 53 years, it has served as a safety net for millions of people in times of health and financial hardship.

Let’s celebrate Medicaid by sharing why you’re thankful for it! What has Medicaid done for you, a friend, or a loved one?

Note: Many of these may be shared, so you don’t have to put your whole name. You can include a link to your photo, such as one you’ve shared publicly on your social media profile.

ARWorks: How to Take Action

The deadline to comply with work requirements for June was July 5. DHS sent out notices of non-compliance to thousands of people that should have already reached clients. If you have not reported your hours, you need to do so as soon as possible because you can only miss a couple more months before you lose coverage. Even if you don’t utilize AR Works, please SHARE this information!

Some people don’t even realize that they are affected. They don’t recognize the name AR Works, or their address has changed preventing these letters from DHS from giving this much-needed information. If you need more information about AR Works (what it is, its history, how to apply), read this article.

If you are unsure if you are affected or how to proceed if you are, keep reading. We have information below that will help!

Anyone who receives those notices or just wants information is welcome to call Legal Aid of Arkansas at (800) 967-9224. They have special Arkansas Works lines–callers can just press 4 at the initial message, dial extension 6313 for Trevor, or extension 2206 for Kevin.

Check this letter to find out if you’re affected or what to do:

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Here are ways you can spread the word about the changes: 

(1) Check out DHS’ website about how to report your work hours, school attendance, volunteer hours, or your exemption.

(1) Share Legal Aid’s Facebook video. This explains the latest and has a link to earlier videos: https://www.facebook.com/arlegalaid/videos/1755020114575199/

(2) Share the attached flyer (ar-works-flyer-latest.pdf) and handout (arkansas-works-information-for-consumers-latest-05-10-18.pdf).

(3)  Invite Legal Aid to talk to your group, community, staff, or clients. They can accommodate any form of participation (in-person, video, phone), various languages, and any time limitations.

If you want assistance from Legal Aid, here is contact info:

Kevin De Liban, Attorney

Economic Justice Practice Group Leader

Legal Aid of Arkansas–West Memphis

310 Mid-Continent Plaza, Suite 420

West Memphis, AR 72301

Phone: (870) 732-6370 x. 2206

Fax: (870) 732-6373

Facebook Twitter

Upholding the ADA: Living in the Community

Everyone on the CES Waiver, all of you who enjoy having your loved one living near to you instead of in an institution, & providers who support waiver services:

The ability to live freely in the community has been questioned, according to this article, by a top official with the US Department of Health and Human Services, enough to alarm a group of Congressmen. They formed a bipartisan group and took action.


“The lawmakers said they were told that Lazare said she believed the Supreme Court came to the wrong conclusion in the landmark Olmstead v. L.C. case, which affirmed the right of people with disabilities to access community-based living, and that she prefers segregated and institutional settings. In addition, Lazare reportedly said she believed that a federal Medicaid rule outlining what types of settings qualify as community-based should be revisited, according to a letter from Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Gregg Harper, R-Miss., and Jim Langevin, D-R.I.”

Even when things are quiet in the news, someone in power is thinking these things. Maybe they want to save money, or possibly they think less of people with disabilities. Some in power think they have the means to change these protections. We need to always be communicating to our legislators why we want to live in the community or why we want our loved ones out in the community instead of institutions. We need to know our rights and assert them!

Laws that protect people with disabilities

The ADA National Network

Take a moment to make our Congressmen understand how much living in the community means to us. They are the ones who would have to fight a battle that threatens the ADA.

Contact our Arkansas Congressmen!!

Contact any US elected official!

Compare Medicaid in each State

Each and every state may have Medicaid, but it is not all run the same. According to ASHA, “State regulations and standards differ greatly in other areas of Medicaid, including:

  • provider requirements for Medicaid participation, credentialing, and supervision;
  • documentation requirements for plan of care approval, criteria for services, authorization, and reimbursement justification;
  • Medicaid audit process and penalties for errors;
  • use of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).”

Make sure you’re aware of these differences. For example, TEFRA is an optional waiver that not all states carry, and if they do, they don’t utilize it the same. For example in Arkansas, if a child meets the health requirements, it is accessible for families, no matter their income, on a sliding pay scale. However, the way we understand its application may be specific to Arkansas. If you move, you may not have TEFRA at all.

So how can you know what’s available to you? Use the resources below to find out more about Medicaid and how it’s different across the US!

What if your state has limited resources? There may be more out there than you know. Look around at state and local resources. There are national programs, state benefits, foundations, organizations, and grants that may help you in a bind. For example, check out this list of foundations that assist for children’s special needs.

If Medicaid matters to you, please constantly tell your elected officials. The trend is to cut Medicaid and provide those funds elsewhere. Get the facts to boost your confidence, but don’t stop communicating! Tell your legislators why Medicaid saves you! Here are some ways we could see Medicaid change in coming years.

Each link leads to a different resource we’ve found to try to help you with info or tangible resources. MSL will add to this list as we find more!