We’re approaching the fifth week of the 2020 Session, which marks the halfway point of the 60-day marathon where lawmakers come to town and get busy passing bills.
Despite both chambers identifying the Agency for Persons with Disabilities as a priority issue that needed to be addressed during the two-month Legislative Session, the House of Representatives has been strangely quiet on how to improve the Medicaid waiver program for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, dubbed the “iBudget.” The program is designed, in part, to help people live as independently as possible in their homes or communities. Each person has an individual budget to spend on services they require.
But the Agency for Persons with Disabilities has spent more money providing services to the 34,000 people in the iBudget program than what the state has agreed to spend, which has spurred lawmakers to take a closer look at how the program operates.
The Senate has offered its proposal (SB 82), by Sen. Aaron Bean, a Republican from Fernandina Beach. The bill maintains the iBudget program, but makes some changes to how it operates.
The measure has cleared two Senate committees — Children, Families and Elder Affairs, and Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
The House, which has long been a champion of requiring Medicaid beneficiaries to enroll in managed-care plans, has no bill.
When asked about the prognosis of passing something during the 2020 session, Senate President Bill Galvano said Thursday that he remains optimistic.
“I hope it still will get resolved this Session. I think … Chairman Bean ha(s) put a lot of work into it. And there are some significant changes within that bill but very cautious changes,” Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, said.
Some of those changes include requiring the state to contract with agencies to provide support coordinator services. That means support coordinators who work with iBudget enrollees would have to join an agency if they wanted to continue providing services. Currently, people with iBudgets can work with support coordinators who are independent contractors.
Meanwhile, both the House and Senate are including in their proposed budgets roughly $240 million to wipe out the deficits that APD has accrued over the last two years.
In addition to that, the Senate is recommending a $235.2 million increase over the current APD base budget. The House has recommended a $71.3 million increase over the current APD base budget.
When asked about the discrepancies between the two chambers in proposed spending for APD, Galvano said he was prepared to “push very hard” for the Senate’s position during budget negotiations with the House.
“We have had these discussions even before Session, and we want to make sure that this population is adequately supported and that we are prioritizing our funding for them,” he said.
Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.