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MR Update #05-20: Altoona Lawsuit, York County Funding, CMS Increases, Waiting List, Certified Investigators, and End of Life Forum
November 7, 2005

Altoona Lawsuit
In January the state began plans to close the Altoona Mental Retardation Center. However families of residents at the facility filed a federal lawsuit on November 4 asking the court to stop the closure. The families are representing about 70 of the center’s 90 residents. They are seeking an injunction stating the center is "the least restrictive environment" as required by the US Supreme Court.

York County Funding Issues
The October 12 York Dispatch reported a disagreement between the county and state regarding funding for two homes for persons with mental retardation. The two programs are actually family-owned and operated residential services. Sparrow serves three siblings and Tomestead serves one individual. Earlier in the year both programs asked the county for additional funding. When rejected they approached the Office of Mental Retardation and the Department of Public Welfare which approved the increases. Last budget year Sparrow received $215,451 which was then increased in FY 2005/06 to $404,264. Tomestead previously received $287,181 and in FY 2005/06 thiswas increased to $409,843.

York County commissioners had denied the increase due to the community waiting list of over 900 individuals with no services; they felt it was unfair to increase the funding for four people to over $800,000. The county refused to distribute these funds to the two family providers which forced the state to seek a third-party intermediary to disseminate the funding. The state and county disagree about the level of care needed for these four individuals and feel the lack of a standardized care assessment is adding to the issue. The Office of Mental Retardation is currently working to implement a standardized assessment tool as a requirement of the federal consolidated waiver review.

CMS Increases
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a 2.8 percent increase in Medicare payment rates to home health agencies for 2006. Home health payment rates are updated annually by either the full home health market basket index (HHMBI) percentage or by a percentage as adjusted by Congress. CMS establishes the HHMBI which measures inflation in the prices of an appropriate mix of goods and services included in home health services. For 2006, the percentage is 3.6, with a 0.8 percentage decrease as required by the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. Additional information is available at www.cms.hhs.gov. The HHMBI is the inflationary index written into Pennsylvania House Bill 1813 to provide an annual index to provide increased funding for community services. Home health care services are those that most closely follow the types of supports and services offered to persons with mental health and mental retardation disabilities.

Medicare Drug Plan
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) new Prescription Drug Plan Finder (www.medicare.gov) will help individuals, including dual eligibles, to learn more about enrolling in the new drug plans. The enrollment process begins November 15. Also available at the web site is an electronic version of the handbook, “Medicare and Your 2006.” For additional information contact CMS at 800-633-4227.

Certified Investigators
The November re-certification class has begun; registration is currently closed. If you registered for the November class but did not receive verification, please contact Antone at recertci@aol.com.

Waiting List
The latest statistics for Pennsylvania’s mental retardation waiting list are:

  • 2,920 on emergency list needing assistance now;
  • 9,091 on critical list needing assistance in next year; and
  • 10,747 on planning list needing services in one to five years.

Total is 22,758 as of October.

End of Life Forum
“Aging and End of Life Issues: A Special Forum” will explore how to support individuals with intellectual disabilities as they face the complexities of aging and experience issues pertaining to end of life care and death. This December 1 – 2 forum in Washington, DC is being organized by the American Association on Mental Retardation. For additional information access www.aamr.org.

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