MOHR President Julie Johnson: progress on crucial issues

The 2019 Minnesota Legislative Session recently adjourned, and we want to thank everyone who contacted their senators and representatives and made their voices heard on policy and funding changes impacting the important services we provide for people with disabilities. In the end, we did not get all that we had hoped for, but we did make progress on some crucial issues.

Our efforts resulted in the addition of a 4.7 percent Competitive Workforce Factor into the Disability Waiver Rate System (DWRS). This will go into effect on January 1, 2020, pending federal approval, and will be implemented on a rolling basis as service agreements are renewed. This factor is intended to begin to address the workforce shortage our field is experiencing. We are happy to have this component in DWRS, though we hoped that the percentage would be higher.

As you know, many services were originally set to receive a 7 percent cut on a rolling basis starting in 2020, when banding ends. But this new factor will help reduce the impact of that cut. There was also a change in the automatic inflationary adjustment from every five years to every two years starting in 2022.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services program was granted $3.5 million in annual funding in order to keep Category 1 services open. Also, the $2 million Extended Employment provider rate funding was included for the next two years.     

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) is working on a project called Waiver Re-Imagine, which aims to simplify and streamline the menu of available waiver services. Changes in policy language that were necessary for this project to take shape were passed. Part of the redesign will be to change day service funding categories in the future, including changes to Day Training and Habilitation (DT&H), Prevocational Services, and Adult Day Services. These changes won’t take effect until January 1, 2021, giving MOHR time to work through the implementation plans with DHS.

Some notable items that were not passed during session include a proposed reduction to the absence and utilization factor in DWRS, and an increase in 245D license fees.

In addition, a Blue-Ribbon Commission will be formed to work on transforming the health and human services system to obtain greater efficiencies, savings, and outcomes.

These are some of the issues we will need to follow closely during the next legislative session. We’re asking members to join us for a session recap webinar on June 21 at 9:30 a.m. to learn more and have a chance to get your questions answered.

Our work on policy and funding changes will continue, but now is the time to acknowledge that our efforts made a positive impact on the results this session. Please take time to thank your legislators for their commitment to, and investment in these crucial services and supports for people with disabilities.

I look forward to seeing you at the legislative conference in Alexandria in August.