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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: May 11, 2017 01:07 PM
From: Representative P. Michael Sturla
To: All House members
Subject: Ending the Disabilities Waitlist
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation that would end the waitlist for home and community-based services waivers.

As we all know, early intervention for persons with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) and Autism is essential to improving the quality of life for the individuals and their families. However, for those enrolled in Medicaid and in need of financial assistance, they could wait years before getting the home and community-based services they desperately need.

As of December 21, 2016, 13,420 individuals are waiting for ID services waivers. Another 1,771 are waiting for Autism services waivers. These are individuals who already qualify to receive the benefits, but are waitlisted due to a lack of program funding. In almost all cases, the only way those waiting for disabilities services waivers can receive their benefits is if an opening is created. Openings are generally only made available when someone already receiving benefits no longer financially qualifies, moves out of state or passes away.

Adding to the delay is the fact that the waitlist is not exactly a first-come, first-served process. Once a person is determined to be eligible, they are triaged by need into one of three different waitlists. For persons with Intellectual Disabilities, they are categorized by services needed within six months, two years, or five years. Those eligible who are waiting for an Autism services waiver are triaged into Priorities 1 and 2, and then an “interested list,” which is a list of persons interested in services, but have yet to be determined to be medically eligible.

Even though someone may be triaged to receive the services within a certain timeframe, they often have to wait much longer to receive them. This is because those listed in a higher category always receive benefits first, despite the fact that a person in a lower category may have been waiting years longer. Triaging individuals by need is understandable, yet when people do not receive the services they need and qualify for in timely manner their intervention is delayed. This is not only detrimental to their development, but also more costly to the Commonwealth in the long-run. With that in mind, this legislation would amend the Human Services Code to require person’s eligible for home and community-based services waivers to be offered benefits within 90 days of qualifying.

We do not tell individuals who are due tax refunds that they must wait five years to receive them. We do not tell 16-year-olds who have passed their driving tests that they must wait years before the Commonwealth will issue them a driver’s license. Why should we tell those eligible for home and community-based services waivers they must wait, and possibly never receive the benefits for which they are eligible? That being said, it is my intention to ensure that everyone who is eligible for services receives the care they need in a timely manner so they may live their lives with dignity.

Please join me in sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as HB1457