Do the actions of a state governor foreshadow the approach he would take and the policies he would advocate if elected to this country’s highest office? If so, then those in long-term care may want to pay attention to what’s going on in the Badger State.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, left, who is expected to throw his hat in the ring for the 2016 presidential race, has proposed a 2015‒2017 budget (PDF) for his state that includes language one group is calling “arguably the most significant public policy change in the history of Wisconsin’s long term care service system.” That organization, caught off guard by the proposal, does not mean its assessment as a compliment.
In an open letter (PDF) to “interested parties,” the Wisconsin Family Care Association (WFCA) details how $2 billion in spending, affecting more than 50,000 of the state’s elderly and disabled residents who are living independently, would be overhauled under the proposed budget. Long-term services and supports (LTSS) and medical care, currently provided separately, would be combined in an effort to coordinate care and services as well as save costs. The changes, however, are unnecessary and threaten the state’s “long history of innovation and program excellence” in this area, WFCA maintains.
“Wisconsin’s Family Care program is a recognized national leader in the delivery of managed long-term care services that focuses on independence, supporting meaningful community-based lives, and cost-effectiveness,” the letter states. “The program has increased access, reduced waiting lists, improved quality, enhanced choice, and reduced per member costs significantly since its inception.”
The Family Care program, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is administered by eight organizations that use funds from the state to contract for services (such as personal care, housekeeping and medical care, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services) provided by for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations. Under the new arrangement proposed by Walker, the state would contract with insurance companies to manage care and LTSS for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. The budget proposal, if approved, could result in the closing by mid-2017 of four managed care organizations serving more than 17,000 Family Care members, according to WFCA, although the proposed budget calls for a 36-month transition to the new arrangement and states that the 2017 starting date could be delayed.