Gov. Matt Mead and state health officials don’t know how much money they’ll save through an overhaul of a disability program that serves thousands of people in Wyoming, Mead said Tuesday.

State leaders launched the redesign earlier this year so they’d have money to address the nearly 600 people languishing on a waiting list for services. At this point, they’re not certain how many of them will be added to the Home and Community-Based Waivers program thanks to the overhaul.

“There’s numbers all over the map in terms of how many you can reduce from the waiting list,” Mead said during a speech at the Wyoming Developmental Disability Forum in Casper. “The fact of the matter is we don’t know that yet because we don’t know what savings we’ll find.”

If the overhaul doesn’t have the desired result, the state should consider addressing the waiting list through increased spending, Mead said. State lawmakers have rejected similar suggestions in the past.

The waivers serve more than 2,200 people with developmental disabilities and brain injuries. Parents use them to send special-needs children to day programs and group homes. They also pay for job services and home-based assistance.

The program is already the most expensive in Wyoming’s Medicaid system. It has an annual budget of $103 million, not counting medical costs.

Lawmakers launched the redesign as a way to serve more people without spending more money. But that will mean less funding for those already in the program.

Concern over budget cuts sparked protests in several cities last month. Family members worry a loss in funding will result in less independence and care for loved ones.

About 25 people protested outside the Casper College building where Mead made his speech. He stopped and spoke with many of them on his way inside.

“How appropriate that is, that they are here,” he said at the start of his speech. “They are involved. They are aware of what the situation is, and they’ve got a point of view. That is government the way we want it.”

Public concern has already led state health officials to make major changes to the redesign. They intend to create two waivers. Under the original plan, most people would have received a support waiver with a spending cap. A smaller group would have qualified for a comprehensive option to pay for more intensive and expensive services.

After the outcry, officials decided people already in the program will be grandfathered onto the comprehensive waiver. People coming off the waiting list will start out on the support waiver.

Mead said he’s happy with the changes.

“I don’t want a plan that is not good for those who are disabled,” he said.

Mead spoke at a forum hosted by the Wyoming Community Service Providers, which represents organizations that serve people with developmental disabilities and brain injuries.

Chris Newman, a senior state Health Department administrator, also addressed the group. She acknowledged the process led to some confusion among providers and families. But she said officials created a better product thanks to public feedback.

“We are listening and we want this to work,” she said.

Officials expect the redesign will result in savings, but she said it will take time to transfer people from the waiting list into the program.

“We are talking about slowly doing this as funding becomes available,” she said.

Contact Joshua Wolfson at 307-266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com.

(5) comments

Sassy
Sassy

One thing for sure- the money will line the pockets of Rep Harvey's constituents.

justamom
justamom

There was never a confusion amongst providers and families...the first draft that the Department put out stated that there will be cuts to all the participants already receiving services to get those on the waiting list on! That is not confusion! This is what was said!

Sassy
Sassy

Agreed this is just spin the State is putting on it , Gov Mead has admitted they don't know what they are doing or how much this will save or cost.....

Pops
Pops

Sh-h-h-h...quiet...let's call it uncertain.

WyomingCowboy82435
WyomingCowboy82435

DOH has never walk a mile in the shoes of the providers or the families/guardians/participants and therefore are redesigning the waiver based on know knowledge of the impacts. Governor Mead is all political blah, blah, blah. At the Tuesday WCSP forum they had few details and we all know that they know, but so disingenuous and unethical they really have nothing to lose except their job, when this all comes crashing down around them. Once they have killed the providers, no one will be out there to provide the limited services they suggest. File formal complaints with Cynthia Riddle from CMS at Cynthia.Riddle@cms.hhs.gov. Start you letter to her with the words, "Please accept this as a formal complaint" CC it to Buck Gwyn at P&A at wypanda@wypanda.com. Do this immediately. Demand choice. Choice of case mangers, providers and where the participant choose to live. The legislation does not mandate what they doing.

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