Thursday, September 17, 2009

Feds Investigate Hawaii Medicaid Cuts -- News for disability rights advocates

Hawaii's Medicaid program has come under federal scrutiny by one Federal department, and is pending scrutiny by another. The severe budget cuts that Hawaii has been making in its DDMR waiver program, and the way Medicaid is functioning under the new managed care (for profit) system that began February 1, are the objects of this scrutiny. On June 29, I filed a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (OCR). On August 26, the San Francisco regional office of OCR notified the San Francisco regional office of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of the issues involved. A lot of health and other professionals are relatively unaware of the hugely important role CMS plays in the day to day operation of our state Medicaid and Medicare programs. CMS wrote the last formal interpretation of the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) clause of the American Recovery Act which allowed the states to get away with making substantial medicaid service cuts and still receive stimulus funds. CMS decides how Medicaid and Medicare are supposed to function and issues letters to the states or rulings printed in the Federal Register, and then these items become law for states to follow. CMS isn't set up to handle individual complaints, but is now watching how the Hawaii Medicaid due process system functions, to ensure it functions the way CMS expects it to. As the parent of a child whose home services have been threatened with substantial cuts, I have the security of knowing that the state will have to follow federal law in these hearings. They're not going to be able to just "make it up as they go", as has happened so often in the past. Part of this process is ensuring that EPSDT, which entitles children with special health care needs to a much broader scope of services than normally provided under Medicaid, also functions as intended. From the standpoint of education advocates, this can provide a tremendous opportunity. DHHS has written manuals on how EPSDT and IDEA are supposed to function jointly to meet all the educational, medical and social needs of children with disabilities. They published a brochure in May 2003 with detailed instructions on how state education departments can bill EPSDT for services, and another brochure in 2004 specifically describing how EPSDT services are to be incorporated into the IEP.
Medicaid eligible children with disabilities are entitled to receive medical services in the school setting, paid for by Medicaid, if two important requirements are satisfied. First, the school/school district must be a participating Medicaid provider. Second, the services must be written into the child’s IEP/IFSP, which automatically makes them considered medically necessary.
Since the Hawaii schools are Medicaid providers, there is no reason for Hawaii's children who are eligible for Medicaid to continue to suffer from DOE denials of services. This issue of the integration of EPSDT with the IEPs will continue under federal scrutiny. Doctors can write letters of medical necessity and submit these, along with a prescription, to the child's Medicaid provider (either Evercare or Ohana). Medicaid is then supposed to provide it via the funding they are receiving from the state. That part of the system isn't functioning well right now - but that's how we can all help get things working correctly here. Linda Nuland-Ames and I have formed the Children's Disability Rights Education Association. Our first activity is an online petition to DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, calling for full transparency of how states are spending their Medicaid stimulus funds and ensuring that a priority is given to using these funds to replace Medicaid services which have been cut since July 1, 2008. According to DHHS, the states have already received over $28 billion in stimulus funds that can ONLY be spent on Medicaid. My state, Hawaii, has already received over $131 million (with more on the way). No one seems to know how it is being spent, and no one wants to answer my question why it isn't being spent restoring Medicaid service cuts. CMS tells me they are also working to have someone made responsible at the state level for communicating between families that have their services cut, and both the Hawaii Department of Health and Department of Human Services. CDREA will reach out to families whose services have been cut to ensure their concerns are heard and receive the consideration they so urgently deserve. Please join us in these actions. Summer Harrison Linda Nuland-Ames Children's Disability Rights Education Association

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About Me

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I'm the mom of a child with disabilities. Hannah's first neurologist said she might never develop beyond the level of a 2 month old infant, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. The brain damage was just too severe. Nine years later, she walks, uses a touchscreen computer and I've just been shown she can learn to construct sentences and do simple math with the right piece of technology. Along the way, I discovered I needed to teach myself what Hannah's rights to services really were. Learning about early intervention services led to reading about IDEA and then to EPSDT. I've been waiting for the Obama administration to realize the power and potential of EPSDT for the medical rights - including the right to stay at home with their families - of children with disabilities. The health reform people talk about long term care, and the disability people talk about education and employment, but nobody is talking about EPSDT. So I am.