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.

PASSE: Take Action!


The PASSE system was voted in by our legislature last year. Right now, we’re in what they call “Phase I,” and during that time, the PASSEs will manage care for their clients, but Medicaid will keep paying the bills. Then in January 2019, we move into “Phase II,” and the PASSEs’ decisions about our care will matter. In January, DHS/Medicaid will give the PASSEs the money and allow them to decide how to use it.


If you need a reminder, the PASSE stands for Provider-led Arkansas Shared Savings Entity, and like insurance companies, they will be covering the care for tiers 2 & 3, what DHS considers to be higher level need, of behavioral health and developmental disability services.

DHS has assigned thousands of people to the 4 licensed PASSEs after each person’s Independent Assessment completion. If you are affected, you will likely first receive a letter or some sort of notification to schedule an Independent Assessment.

If you have questions, DHS has a PASSE counseling line: 1-833-402-0672. They also have regional people you can talk to.

MSL is actively working to get you more information on the PASSEs themselves. Now that details are coming together, we should be able to get more. The information we have so far is listed below in steps that should help you.


These changes may be happening to you or a loved one, but you can do these 8 things to help yourself in this new process:

1. Make sure your provider knows about the PASSE and everything it involves.

It’s important that you ask your provider to join every PASSE. What if next year, you need to switch PASSEs because of a bad experience, but your provider isn’t in any other PASSE? If they choose to join only one PASSE, you could be forced to make a decision between 2 (or more) providers you really like. What if your trusted Cardiologist who did your surgery is in only one PASSE and your Therapist who you’ve been with for years is only in another? You might have to choose. However, even after you ask your provider to join all PASSEs, they may still choose to join only one because they have invested in that PASSE or simply because it’s a business decision. They have that right, but you still have to look out for what’s best for you; for the people whose care and services will be managed by the PASSEs, it’s best for us to have as much choice and freedom as possible. The only way you can have that is when providers give you choices by joining all PASSEs. Some PASSEs have said they will pay for out-of-network costs or make special agreements, but that’s probably only for providers you don’t see often.

DHS said that they are in the process of setting reimbursement rates for providers – the actuary process. Because of that, some providers will not know what you mean when you mention the PASSE to them. Their business office may know and may be waiting on these rates before making any decisions. However, you can still take this information to your provider and/or to the business office.

The following packets are ones that DHS has distributed to providers. Don’t assume yours has received it. Every provider you use needs to be sure they understand this info about the PASSEs. The last is a collection of contact information of all PASSEs specifically for providers to help them join. Take care of yourself, and take these to every provider you see.

  • A Family letter to take to your providers that explains this for you
  • Resource that was sent to PCPs
  • Resource that explains PASSEs Phase I
  • Resource that explains PASSE Phase II and updates
  • Resource for providers that explains why and how to join
  • Give them the contact information below

Some have been concerned whether ACH is covered. This is the response:

“State supported hospitals UAMS and ACH will be enrolled with every PASSE. Many doctors are enrolled through their networks but may not know that yet. You can call every PASSE and interview them so you are making an informed choice.”


2. Get to know the PASSEs.

*MSL has requested websites for all – check back for updates.

Arkansas Total Care
Empower
Summit (Arkansas Provider Coalition)
  • Amerigroup Partnership Plan LLC
  • http://www.summitcommunitycare.com
  • Their HANDBOOK (rules, your rights, and information)
  • Network Provider Directory
  • Jason Miller
    Jason.miller@summitcommunitycare.com
  • 425 W. Capitol Ave. Suite 233 | Little Rock, AR 72203
  • 1-844-405-4295
ForevercARe

3. Join a PASSE Advisory Committee.

Each PASSE is required by Act 775 (pg 9, line 21) to have a Consumer Advisory Council to give them feedback. They know how things are supposed to happen, but it’s up to you to keep them informed of what’s really happening.

Call your care coordinator to join your PASSE’s council.


4. Remember, you have choices.

Once you have been assigned a PASSE, you have 90 days to change to another. Call your PASSE, and make sure they include your providers. If they don’t, use the info above to find a PASSE that better suits you. DHS is also going to offer open enrollment in October 2018. We will continue to provide more info as we can!

Also, DHS will have open enrollment in March 2019 for all current members. During that time, you will be allowed to switch to another PASSE, and by then, we should know more.


5. If you don’t agree with your assessment results, which you should receive in the mail, know you can appeal.

You have rights, and you can appeal DHS decisions. This is a very new process, and assessors can make mistakes. Check this post to see what your rights are and how to file an appeal. Watch our Q & A with Disability Rights where we answered common questions.


6. If you feel lost, take some time to catch up.

What is a PASSE? Will you be affected? MSL has been following the PASSE from the very beginning. Take some time to catch up and read all about them.


7. Keep MSL informed.

If you learn anything, especially from a specific PASSE, share it with us! If you have any problems, MSL works to solve those for you. Please let us know by:


8. Think about how you’re feeling now, remember that at the next vote.

Our legislature voted this into effect. We called, we emailed, and we visited – all to let them know what we need. If you feel that this good for you, remember that, and perhaps send a note to let them know. You might want to vote for your representatives again. If you feel they didn’t listen to you or didn’t represent you well by voting for this, you should send them a letter to let them know. However, you also have the power to change who is in office. Make sure you place an informed vote. See how your local Representatives or Senators voted on Act 775.

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

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

AR Choices: How to Make a Public Comment

You have the opportunity to take action and make a public comment until July 31. How would one choose to make a public comment about the Arkansas Choices issue? What would one say?

This is how you can place your own public comment for the record:

  1. First, follow this link (copy and paste it into your internet address window): https://medicaid.mmis.arkansas.gov/General/Comment/Comment.aspx
  2. You will see some documents on a long page that are available for public comment by July 31, 2018. The 3 documents you want look just like the ones in the graphic below. The ones in the long section on bottom are old, and the date has passed.
    Screen Shot 2018-07-25 at 2.21.04 PM
  3. You will want to view the document named “ARCHOICES-1-18route.doc”. Click on the blue link with that name (on the Medicaid website), and it will download the file for you.
  4. Open the file from your document downloads, if it doesn’t open automatically for you.
  5. At first glance, it may be difficult to understand, but try to read through it as best as you can. You might understand more than you think. (See below for more assistance.)
  6. After you read through it, you might want to send in some comments about how this will affect you. For example, you might want to comment on the use of the algorithm itself, or you might want to comment on how they would score you and how that method may cut your hours.
  7. You can choose to mail your comments, but the faster way is by email. You can send your comments in an email to becky.murphy@dhs.arkansas.gov, but be sure to reference which manual you’re commenting on in the subject line like “Public Comment Submission, ARCHOICES-1-18route.doc.”
  8. Make sure to do this before July 31, 2018!

If you were to make a comment, what would you say? Well, Disability Rights Arkansas has released their official comments that they have submitted. This is a great example that can help you with what you might want to say. Read through this very thorough comment that was written by a qualified and informed attorney, and it might help you make sense of ARCHOICES-1-18route.doc. You might also want to read the previous post about the update and comments from Legal Aid of Arkansas.

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AR Choices: Update & Public Comment

Here is a detailed update from Kevin de Liban from Legal Aid about AR Choices.

Also, please note that Public Comment ends on this issue on July 31, 2018. There is one more public hearing on July 26th in Little Rock. Kevin’s update can help you with ideas of what to say as you examine the manuals available for public comment. Don’t miss this chance to speak up for what you need!


As you know, a court invalidated the RUGs algorithm a little over two months ago. DHS is now trying to re-implement the RUGs algorithm to take effect on October 1. Rule-making is the name for the process by which DHS is trying to make this change. DHS has proposed that the algorithm work the same way it did before being invalidated.

Until October 1, it appears that DHS intends to keep everyone on the program at the same level of attendant care they have now and that DHS will not allow any new applicant to the program to receive attendant care services. Legal Aid of Arkansas is actively working to change this through a new lawsuit filed on June 29.

Here is some other relevant information:

(A) The public comment period for rule-making on the algorithm runs until 7/31.  Here are the manuals available for public comment. The public has a right to participate in the rule-making process. If they choose to do so, people may offer comments by email to becky.murphy@dhs.arkansas.gov or by mail to the DHS Division of Medical Services, Office of Policy Coordination and Promulgation, P.O. Box 1437, Slot S295, Little Rock, Arkansas 72203-1437. Please include the title of the document you are commenting on when you email. Here is the notice of rule-making that DHS has published for more information.

(B) DHS is hosting public meetings about the rule-making. The remaining meetings is on 7/26 in Little Rock (Ark. Enterprises for the Developmentally Disabled ;105 East Roosevelt Rd.). People can offer verbal comments at the meeting. The meetings start at 5 p.m.

(C) Legal Aid has had nearly 200 cases relating to the RUGs algorithm in the last two and a half years. Here is some of what we’ve learned about how the algorithm works.

(1) The algorithm doesn’t provide enough care to meet the needs of people on ARChoices.

The most care someone can get under RUGs is 5.5 hours per day unless they need IV medication, suctioning, tracheostomy care, a ventilator, or a feeding tube (then, they can get 6.5 hours per day). This is not nearly enough to meet the care needs of many people on the program. Because of the cuts to care, many people ended up lying in their own waste, skipping meals, getting bed sores, and staying shut in. Even when people have family members make up for the cuts, they have had to go through more anxiety, have family work outside the home in ways that threaten their care, or consider moving to a nursing home.

(2) The RUGs algorithm cuts the hours of people who have not gotten any better.

People who used 8 hours per day (the max for people under 65) or 7 hours per day (the max for people 65 or over) before the algorithm were cut even though their medical conditions and abilities did not improve.

(3) The RUGs algorithm has not been validated or verified in Arkansas.

The only testing that has occurred on RUGs took place in Ontario, Canada and Michigan, which have different situations than Arkansas. Also, though DHS says that it used statistics to come up with the hours that different people get, DHS admits they lost the data.  This means that there is no way of knowing how or why DHS figured that 5.5 hours per day was enough for someone with quadriplegia or cerebral palsy (or any of the other amounts DHS gives for people with different conditions and abilities).

(4) There is no documented evidence of problems with the system of nurse discretion that DHS used for 17 years before the algorithm.

Before 2016, DHS used nurses to decide the number of attendant care hours. Legal Aid never received a single complaint from clients about the nurses’ decisions. Since DHS started using the algorithm in 2016, we have worked on nearly 200 cases. Now, DHS says that nurses were biased and that the algorithm is more objective or fair. But, before 2016, DHS did not tell a single nurse that they were giving out too many or too few hours, did not do any kind of study to show whether nurses were giving out too many or too few hours, and did not tell nurses to change the way they were giving out hours.

(5) Our clients generally do not think the complicated RUGs algorithm is fair.

The algorithm is 21 pages of computer code. Most average people can’t understand it. Also, the way the algorithm works totally excludes a doctor’s opinion about the amount of care someone needs. People on the program cannot understand the criteria by which their hours are set, cannot fight reductions, and cannot plan for the future.

If you need help or more information, here is Kevin’s information:

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

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!