By Graham Kilmer
The Republican controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted on two omnibus motions Wednesday to make changes to Wisconsin’s Long-Term Care programs, as well as it’s nationally ranked Workers Compensation program.
The changes passed in the motion on Wednesday removed some of the proposals originally called for by the governor in the budget he submitted in February.
Both votes were passed 12-4 along party lines. One motion called for an expansion of the family care system and the combination of Wisconsin’s long-term care programs with regular medical care. Legislators did not, however, scrap the program and its local Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) Boards as Governor Walker had submitted in his original budget proposal. The motion concerning workers compensation changes removed one of the governors highly contested provision’s, and retained another.
The motion increased the size of the regions currently served by Managed Care Organizations so that there will be no less than five regions. It also required the presence of Integrated Health Agencies (IHA) in each of the regions, as well as allowing these IHA’s to be private for-profit insurance companies.
Some groups are still wary that the changes prescribed for the current long-term care system will open the door later on for out of state insurance companies to take over the state’s programs.
“This motion doesn’t reform our current system, it indicates Family Care and IRIS will be replaced with something new,” said Beth Swedeen, Executive Director of the Board for People with Developmental Disabilites (BPDD).
Sen. Jon Erpenach (D-Middleton), of the JFC, noted the changes being made were not necessary, and still poses threat to the self-directed care program IRIS.
“IRIS has proven to be a strong family supporting plan for those that are elderly, disabled and otherwise unable to live on their own,” said Sen. Erpenbach in a statement released Wednesday.
The motion calling for changes to long-term care programs, written by members of the JFC Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Rep. Dean Knudson(R-Hudson), contained language calling for the Department of Health Services (DHS) to examine whether any of the responsibilities allocated to the locally governing ADRC boards could be handled by the department, and to propose the removal of any such responsibilities through state statute.
Rep. Knudson said he believes the changes being made by the Republican motion are saving the IRIS program.
“I am proud to support the restoration of ADRCs, the IRIS program and local long term care decisions,” said Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green).
Republican members of the JFC called that the Department of Health Services submits a request for the expansion of the family care statewide. The move would bring long-term care programs to the eight counties currently without them.
The motion also called for the elimination of the Community Integration Program (CIP), a program that helps people with developmental disabilities stay in their communities and not have to seek care in nursing homes and institutions. The motion proposed getting rid of the Community Options Program, a program that provides services similar to those administered through CIP to elderly residents and those with long-term disabilities.
“These changes do not start with the current long-term care system. It makes changes to the system now and authorizes unknown changes to occur in the future,” said Swedeen.
Following heavy criticism from workers compensation attorneys and insurance providers, legislators decided to throw out some of the provisions proposed by Gov. Walker in his original budget submission.
The Governor’s proposal to move the administrative functions from the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) was deleted in the motion passed Wednesday.
The provision from the Governor’s proposal retained by committee Republicans calls for the transfer of adjudicatory functions from the DWD to the Division of Hearings and Appeals with the Department of Administration. It also requires at least 18 administrative law judges to be cross-trained to begin hearing workers compensation cases.
Within the same motion containing the changes to workers compensation was a controversial move to exempt the construction of the new Department of Transportation Building from municipal zoning ordinances in Madison.