UPDATE: Miller’s bill failed: 9 yeas, 6 nays and 5 not voting. Pretty certain at least some Democrats voted “no” or dodged the vote entirely, but I’m looking for a roll call. I’ll have a full update later.
It sounds like Gov. Asa Hutchinson will not be supporting the bill by Rep. Josh Miller (R-Heber Springs) to require the state to clear its eight year waiting list for developmental disabilities waivers, as I suggested in a post yesterday.
J.R. Davis, the governor’s spokesperson, wrote me yesterday afternoon with the following response:
Governor Hutchinson has said that he supports a continuum of care for individuals with developmental disabilities, to include both institutional and community based services. He is concerned about the waiting list and wants DHS and the Task Force to consider ways to reduce or eliminate the wait. The Governor has referred the CFCO issue to the Healthcare Task Force. As for Rep. Miller’s bill, specifically, the Governor does not support the time frame to eliminate the waiting list by September 1, 2016 because it is not feasible within the current budget.
If it passes, Miller’s bill (which is about to run in the House Public Health committee) would almost certainly entail implementing the Community First Choice Option, or CFCO. Without the governor’s support, though, its chances are slim.
The Healthcare Task Force is the body that Hutchinson created to come up with a systemic overhaul of the state’s health care system over the next two years. It’s part of his compromise solution to the thorny political problem posed by the private option Medicaid expansion: The private option will continue in current form through the end of 2016, by which time the task force will have developed a plan to amend or replace it, as well as make broader changes to health care.
Should the CFCO be part of that discussion? Sure. It’s a crucial piece of the health care system. CFCO would affect not only the developmentally disabled but also the elderly, as pointed out by an advocate who contacted me yesterday afternoon. Elderly Medicaid recipients who are currently entitled to nursing home care automatically would be eligible instead to stay in their own homes and receive care there — a prospect that is usually less expensive than the cost of 24/7 nursing home care, not to mention more humane. That’s why the AARP supports implementing Community First Choice. It’s also why the Arkansas Health Care Association — that is, the nursing home lobby — hates it.
But by saying CFCO should be handled by the task force rather than by immediate legislative action, Hutchinson seems to be telling the 3,000 families so desperate for help to wait a couple of years longer. Turn that eight-year wait into a nice, round decade. As for “not feasible within the current budget” — well, if the governor can’t set budget priorities, who can?