Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and three sitting lawmakers publicly called on the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) to pause proposed program cuts for parents of medically complex children during an Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Task Force meeting Monday.
FSSA announced the decision to curb its use of Attendant Care pay for Legally Responsible Individuals (LRIs), usually parents, in favor of Structured Family Care earlier this month in response to a $1 billion shortfall in the Medicaid budget. During the COVID-19 pandemic, FSSA allowed parents to be paid for care normally covered by home health nurses — a field with a shortage of workers then and now.
But, following a specially called meeting to review a list of several proposed changes to Medicaid, stakeholders seemed dissatisfied with the agency’s explanation and urged FSSA to halt its cuts.
“What I just heard is we’re working on additional clarifications. I’ve heard we’re trying to get information. I’ve heard we’re going to adjust. I’ve heard no data,” Crouch said at the conclusion of the hour-long meeting. “At this point in time, until these questions can be answered, I would call upon FSSA to pause in their timetable for the implementation of this program by July 1 and I would call upon the General Assembly to be supportive and look at how they can make that happen.”
Crouch is one of six Republicans running for governor.
Despite repeated questions, FSSA didn’t respond when asked specifically about the number of families impacted by the changes and the proposed savings. The payment for LRIs, which can go up to $15 per hour depending on location, falls far short of the pay under the structured family caregiving program, which ranges from $30-70 per day.
An online release indicates the overall package will save $300 million but doesn’t break that down by program.
“I completely agree with what (Crouch) just said. I think there’s too little information and too little transparency and as a result FSSA should pause until there’s transparency and adequate information for families and other stakeholders,” said Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, in response to Crouch’s call.
The live-streamed meeting met virtually but parents and caregivers flooded the chat box with personal stories and anger, urging the agency to reconsider the cuts to a program that became a lifeline for many. Several said they’d tried for years to hire nurses for home care to no avail while others said the payments allowed them to pay their mortgages and stop relying on other poverty alleviation programs, like food stamps.
“Growth in enrollment and utilization points to a NEED of Hoosier families. You should aim to FILL that need, not turn away from it,” said YouTube user Mary McDonald.
Under the change, friends, neighbors and other family members — including stepparents — can be paid as attendant caregivers but not biological or adoptive parents. Parents noted that a nursing shortage meant many of them would simply have to continue their caregiving duties with no pay because they had no other options.
Another user, Sarah Saylor, said, “I have already called 40+ organizations and NOT A SINGLE ONE has staff available. Add in that I live in a rural area and it’s even harder.”
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