Approve program to aid elderly, disabled

2013-01-29T08:30:00Z Approve program to aid elderly, disabledGuest column by MIKE MAYER and FOUR CO-WRITERS missoulian.com

Montana’s 63rd Legislature has a unique opportunity in front of it to do the right thing for people with disabilities and older adults who are in need of personal assistance services to remain living in their own homes and communities. Before legislators is a proposal contained in House Bill 2 (NP 22222) to refinance and enhance Montana’s Medicaid-funded personal assistance program into what is known as the Community First Choice Option.

The personal assistance program provides critical services to individuals with disabilities and older adults such as assistance with bathing, dressing, toileting and meal preparation, etc. Services that allow people who need help completing these tasks to remain living, active and productive in their own communities instead of being unnecessarily placed in costly institutions.

These critical services also allow individuals to be active and productive within their own communities and to seek out employment, educational and other opportunities that would not available to them if they are required live in an institution to receive assistance with daily living activities.

The best part about the Community First Choice Option is that it does not require any additional state money to implement. CFCO would provide Montana with an ongoing 6 percent increase in federal Medicaid matching funds for approximately 95 percent of the individuals who currently use personal assistance services and who qualify for Medicaid-funded services in a nursing facility or Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. Implementing CFCO would not increase the number of people eligible for Medicaid, so it is not an expansion of the Medicaid program.

CFCO is about making the current personal assistance service system better able to meet the needs of people who need it and giving consumers more of a voice in the delivery of their own care. CFCO would also put in place a comprehensive quality control system to ensure that the program is transparent, efficient and effective in meeting the needs of people who are in need of in-home personal assistance services.

Montana is well situated to implement CFCO because our personal assistance program already provides many of the services that are required under the CFCO. There would not need to be substantial changes to the program for us to take advantage of the 6 percent boost in federal matching funds.

The 63rd Montana Legislature would be doing Montana a great service and improving the lives of Montanans with disabilities and older adults who rely on personal assistance services for their most basic needs by approving NP 22222 in HB 2 by making our Medicaid funded personal assistance program more transparent, more accountable and better able to meet the needs of the individuals who use it and allowing the state to move forward in implementing the Community First Choice Option.

This opinion is signed by Joe Burst of Living Independently For Today & Tomorrow in Billings, Tom Osborn of North Central Independent Living Services in Great Falls, Mike Mayer of Summit Independent Living Center in Missoula, Bob Maffit of the Montana Independent Living Project in Helena and Claudia Clifford of AARP Montana.

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