Minnesota Seeks Federal Approval of Medicaid Changes

I have recently been approached by several people seeking assistance on an increasingly common situation: what to do with a parent who suddenly needs living assistance.  One thing to note for these clients is that they are not alone. According to the statistics related by the department of human services, 557,000 Minnesota residents received Medical Assistance (Minnesota’s Medicaid program).

In the past Medicaid assistance has meant receving money to put a loved one into institutionalized care. Originally, Medicare would not pay to keep someone out of instituionalized care. But that is changing as people seek to care for loved ones in a more familiar environment. Recognizing this trend, Minnesota’s Human Services Commissioner, Lucinda Jesson, is set to requestapproval from the federal government for large scale changes – a so called “global waiver” – that would allow the state to have increased flexibility in how it can spend federal human-services funds.

In a recent interview, Ms. Jesson stated that the waiver would allow Minnesota to use Medicaid funds to pay for home and community-based services first.  She believes that people would rather stay in their homes and communities than go to a facility.  While there is currently a system of exceptions that allow members of certain populations to remain in their homes or communities, it is very difficult to determine which programs cover what population. Ms. Jesson feels that, if given the chance, Minnesota could design a better system.

The hope is that under a new program, the Minnesota Medical Assistance program would have the ability to serve people at their level of need by offering more services overall.  For instance, offering Meals on Wheels or personal care attendants to seniors instead of requiring that the person needing such services be institutionalized. Ms. Jesson predicts that these changes would, ultimately, save Minnesota money as it costs 3 times more to have someone in a nursing home than to care for that person in his or her home.

The DHS plans to have its proposal ready to submit to the federal government in early 2012. If this is of interest to you, please note that there will be a public comment period later this fall.