Posted tagged ‘Elder Care’

Effects of Wisconsin Budget ‘repair’ Bill on Direct Care Workers

March 2, 2011

Wisconsin’s Budget Repair Bill Threatens Health Care for Vulnerable Residents

This is a guest post by Mike Bachhuber, Executive Director of the Independent Living Council of Wisconsin.

Senate Bill 11, Wisconsin’s “Budget Repair Bill” gives government officials power to change health care available to the state’s low-income residents without public opportunity for input. The legislature has held this power since the beginning of the program.

State statutes provide most of the details for BadgerCare, the state’s federally-supported “medical assistance” program. Until now, these statutes have defined details such as: 

Which people needing care are eligible;  Types of care available to them;
 How care providers are paid and what people needing care must pay.
 When these details are provided by statute, both the Assembly and Senate must pass a bill with the same language to     change the law. The change becomes effective with the Governor’s approval or over a veto with a two-thirds vote in both   houses of the legislature. This process gives the public an opportunity to give their input and tell policy-makers how the changes will affect them.

Senate Bill 11, however, will give that power to the Secretary of Health Services if passed. The bill allows him to change these details by publishing a rule. Unlike with legislation, these changes could become law before the public is even aware. Giving so much power to make these kinds of law changes has not been seen up to now.

The law provides for only two limits on this power. First, the Secretary must give advance notice to the co-chairs of the Legislative Joint Finance Committee. Both co-chairs are currently from the same party so, unless they let others know, most members of the Legislature will not know about the changes until they are published. The Committee chairs can, however, delay or stop the proposed changes by action of the Committee.

The second limit on the “edict” power is that most changes would have to be approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If not approved by the federal government, other cuts to medical assistance will go into effect.

Cuts are most likely to affect individuals and families making more than 133% of the Federal Poverty Level, as little as $1,207 monthly. People with disabilities and others have fought hard for protections that give them care to keep them alive or allow them to live in the community and work real jobs. They are afraid that changes might be made to take away these protections before they even know someone was thinking of particular changes. The two limits on power may not be enough to protect them. Read an excerpt of a memo from Wisconsin’s Legislative Reference Bureau. 

Reposted by permission from the Direct Care Alliance.