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Waiver programs save state money

Published (1/21/2011)
By Patty Ostberg
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The state will save about $275 million in 2010 by using the Elderly Waiver program instead of shifting people directly to nursing homes for care.

That was the message the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee received Jan. 13 from Todd Bergstrom, director of research and payment for Care Providers of Minnesota.

The program pays for home- and community-based services for people age 65 and older, who are eligible for Medical Assistance, but require medical care at the level of a nursing home and choose to stay in their community. The state currently uses various waiver programs to care for the state’s elderly and disabled to help save on overall costs.

The committee also heard overviews of the state’s long-term care and Medical Assistance funding.

Bob Meyer, director of fiscal analysis continuing care administration for the Department of Human Services, said about 69 percent of long-term care funding is spent on waivers and home care. Meyer described several different waiver programs, including Community Alternative Care that helps those under age 65, many of whom are young adults that need intensive care, such as feeding tubes and hospitalization. Another program includes Personal Care Assistance that helps children and adults with at-home services, such as bathing and toileting.

Committee Chairman Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) said the overviews in the next few meetings are to help members become more informed. “The more we know about the way these programs function, the better,” he said.

Although the committee doesn’t have a budget target, it will be faced with “daunting numbers,” Abeler added. He said he’s still waiting for interested groups to come to the committee with “best practice ways to serve more people,” a request he announced at the committee’s first meeting.

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