New Federal Rule Supports Community Access, Including Integrated Employment

New Federal Rule Supports Community Access, Participation for People with Disabilities

Madison, WI – Today’s announced changes to federal Medicaid rules will increase access and opportunity for people with disabilities regarding where and how they live, work, and participate in community life.

The proposed rule specifies the qualities that home and community-based settings must have in order to receive Medicaid funding. These include being integrated into the community, supporting independence, involving individual choice, and protecting individuals from coercion and restraint.

“Because our family has always held the vision that our teenaged son with a significant disability will live and work in his community, pay taxes, and make contributions, this rule is both welcome and overdue,” said Kevin Fech, chair of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (BPDD).

Fech said that as a Board comprised of Wisconsin residents with disabilities and their families, BPDD has heard from people with disabilities from all parts of the state who are segregated, treated unfairly, and exploited.

Unlike most other states, Wisconsin is doing poorly when it comes to people with disabilities having jobs in the community (integrated employment). In fact, the number of individuals placed in settings that rely solely on Medicaid funding, provide pre-vocational services, and pay people with disabilities sub-minimum wage is growing.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported in 2012 that the average individual in facility-based, sub-minimum wage employment made $2.33 per hour, compared with $8.01 per hour for individuals in integrated employment. Statewide, only 8% of Wisconsin residents using Medicaid-funded long-term care supports are working in integrated jobs in their communities at minimum wage or higher.

“The language of the proposed rule clearly supports Wisconsin’s movement toward a system where all residents receive supports in their own homes and communities, are consulted and included in developing their plans so that their individual needs and goals are met, and are supported to maintain as much independence as possible,” said Beth Swedeen, BPDD Executive Director. “The ruling also allows for an ample transition period, to ensure that individuals with long-term care needs continue to receive supports and that providers have time to adapt and change their models to provide appropriate, community-integrated services.”

Swedeen said federal language changes will help people with disabilities achieve independence and self-sufficiency and break through the barriers of poverty and isolation. “For too long the state has had an unhealthy over-reliance on segregated settings for individuals with disabilities. And it has cost individuals in terms of quality of life, and taxpayers in terms of return on investment.”