Advocates for elderly, disabled rip $15m cut

By Kyle Cheney
State House News Service / January 13, 2011

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Facing exploding costs in the state’s Medicaid program, MassHealth, the Patrick administration moved this week to slash $15 million a year from programs that serve the elderly and developmentally disabled, prompting a backlash yesterday from human services advocates who say the proposed cuts are misguided.

On the chopping block are the rates the state pays to long-term care providers, including adult foster care programs, which provide 24-hour-a-day supervision for elderly and developmentally disabled adults; adult day health programs, which offer care to residents in their communities to prevent nursing home placement; and day habilitation programs.

“State governments across the country have had to make very difficult budget decisions as a result of the national economic collapse,’’ said Jennifer Kritz, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. “Although recent revenues have exceeded benchmark estimates, they still remain below [fiscal 2008] levels and MassHealth enrollment and spending continues to grow. We are committed to working with providers and members to mitigate the impact of these rate reductions as much as possible.’’

Human service providers were informed of the cuts Tuesday.

Among the proposed cuts: a $5 million-a-year reduction in rates paid to day habitation programs for the developmentally disabled, a $4 million-a-year cut to adult foster care rates, and a $3.3 million-a-year cut from adult day health rates. If approved, the reduced rates would take effect mid-March, advocates said.

Gary Blumenthal, executive director of the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, said he intends to protest the cuts directly to the governor.

“It’s just very, very regrettable. When you cut $5 million or $15 million from these programs, the only way to take it is by reducing staff and that makes it difficult to meet all of the health and safety standards,’’ Blumenthal said. “If this is a partnership, which the state often likes to say . . . we’re in serious need of marriage counseling.’’