Mo. House Panel Rejects Money for Medicaid Waivers

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri House health and social services funding panel has rejected Gov. Jay Nixon's request for money that would take people with developmental disabilities off a Medicaid waiver wait list.

Gov. Nixon suggested that $24 million be included in the current year's budget.

While people with developmental disabilities may have insurance, they are not guaranteed the additional in-home services the waivers would provide. To get the services, potential recipients are put on a wait list.

"These folks are not entitled to these developmental disabilities services unless the governor or the Legislature recommended and the Legislature has appropriated the funding for them and that's why they're on the wait list to start with," said Keith Schafer, executive director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

The Missouri wait list has 1,400 people on it, but the $24 million request would cut the number by 970 people.

The panel's chairman, Rep. Sue Allen, said the problem is that based on last year's budget, there isn't enough money this year to provide the $24 million unless the money were to be cut from other programs.

"It's unreal to have a wait list of zero but hopefully we can have a significant decrease in the wait list," said Allen.

In-home services include transportation, physical therapy, help finding a job, counseling and more.

Robyn Kaufman, executive director of Boone County Family Resources, said providing the proactive, preventative services could save money in the long run by stopping people from having to go to an institutional care.

"It's a lot less expensive than institutional care or living in a residential facility," said Kaufman.

She said it could also keep people with developmental disabilities together with their families.

"Certainly quality of life is important," said Kaufman. "You can't put a dollar figure on that."

Schafer said if approved, the money could have made Missouri the first state in the country to have no people on its waiting list.

"We're close to eliminating that wait list and my hope again is that somehow, someway, we all find a way, working with the Legislature and working through the governor's office, we find a way to still fund that governor's recommendation that he made in January," Schafer said.

In the next two weeks, the proposed budget will go to the House Budget Committee where members will decide whether to decrease money from other areas to fund the waivers that would take people off the wait list.