If people could only speak in asterisks.
You can almost hear the asterisks — and the implied small, fine print — in Gov. Matt Mead’s words last week as he spoke about the state’s disability waiver program.
He said that his goal was to fund the state’s waiver program to fit the needs of those who needed services.
To be clear: That’s absolutely correct. Those who need access to the state’s disability waiver program have virtually nowhere else to turn. The care for many on the program is expensive as well as intensive. And some of the Wyoming residents who receive the waiver program benefits are not necessarily able to advocate for themselves.
The rub will be to determine exactly the needs of the program and residents. Where will the state strike the balance?
Currently, the waiver disability program has a waiting list. And, as easy or even tempting as it might be to suggest throwing money at the program would magically solve the problem, that’s not necessarily the right thing to do either.
Those who are accepted into the program are eligible for an expansive range of services, many of which the majority will never use. However, because every person in the program could use every dime of their individual budget available — theoretically — the state must allocate funding as if that could happen. In other words, it’s a problem of accounting and structure, not abuse within the program.
Currently, the state is studying ways to change the program so that it can help decrease the wait time and bring residents onto the program. They’re also trying to do it with the same amount of money.
Previously, we’ve said this appears to be the right approach. But as the state continues to look at the program, studying it, reform seems farther away.
The state should continue to study public feedback about the program. However, we can’t study the program to death.
It’s also good to hear that this program might be an area in which the governor and the Legislature part company: Previously, lawmakers have been reluctant to add more funding to the program. And yet, if studying shows that more people need services, we hope lawmakers’ find ways of adding funding.
We would suggest one area legislators could consider would be the savings from opting into the Medicaid expansion. Tom Forslund, the director of the Wyoming Department of Health, said that taking the federal government up on the expansion could save as much as $47 million during the course of six years. That’s the state’s own analysis. Yet, lawmakers continue to believe they know better, and their own entrenched beliefs could mean a loss of money for the state.
However, if lawmakers were able to take that savings and divert some of it to programs like the disability waiver, Wyoming might be able to both save money and cover more people.
The fact remains that people who might access the waiver program are among Wyoming’s most needy and vulnerable. It was good to see parents, friends and advocates of the program campaigning for the changes — taking their case directly to Mead.
If a study shows that more people need to be on the program and it would cost more, we hope lawmakers will be able to find extra funding or reprioritize.
Sure, intensive programs like the disability waiver aren’t popular with lawmakers who want to spend less. But, kicking those with disabilities to the curb isn’t very popular either.
That’s what it boils down to.