Day Habilitation programs, serving the many of the state's most vulnerable citizens are going through a very difficult fiscal period this year, due to two factors including:
- losses due to multiple snow days that now exceed over $1.6 million, twice the amount sought by MassHealth to reduce spending in FY 11.
- a proposed 3.7% to 4% rate cut in FY'11 (originally projected to be at $800,000) by MassHealth administrators overwhelmed by high enrollment in health care program due to recession
ADDP and The Arc of Massachusetts have surveyed day habilitation providers and have learned (85% of the provider community responding) that their programs will lose more this fiscal year from snow related losses, than the proposed rate cut. Together, these cuts will be drastic for day habilitation programs.
The letters to Governor Patrick and Secretary Bigby emphasized:
"Due to the never ending series of snow storms, and subsequent work cancellations, Day Habilitation programs are losing revenue that either matches or exceeds the targeted cut for FY'11. Your Administration has stressed that the proposed cut was initiated to reduce Medicaid expenditures for FY 11. If that is the case, then that goal has already been achieved due to the decline in Medicaid billing due to snow storm related closings. [red emphasis mine]
"Imposing an additional FY 11 cut, along with snow day cuts, is fiscally more difficult than the programs can bear. By withdrawing the FY 11 rate reduction for Day Habilitation programs, your Administration can help preserve the fiscal integrity of these programs which are fragile at best."
So, um, yeah. Clearly, I'm against the government cutting funding to day programs (OK, I think I lost my burgeoning Republican street cred there). But this is apples and, um, starfruit (minus another Republican point for mention of something that's not a good ol' 'Murican fruit). The funding because of the snow days was not "cut" or "lost"; it's still there. Did the day programs not plan their budget to account for a few snow days? Sure, we've had more than the usual amount this year, I realize. But, like, all nonprofits, they need to get creative. If they lost some days of billing, find a way to make up the days, just like people do in the hourly-billing world. I'm guessing that if they were to open on a weekend, they'd have plenty of takers -- particularly folks who live with family members who would love a day off with paid-for respite care. Most programs could arrange to have staff swap the day with a day they take off at a later date so they wouldn't have to pay any extra to staff the extra days. Some of the small programs might have to combine sites or something to make it worth firing up the building for the day, but it still seems doable.
As far as the regular funding, yes, I plan to write like I always do when there are proposed cuts and state that I feel day habilitation programs are important. I'm not going to use the pre-fabricated text about the "lost" Medicaid funding though, because I do think the programs have some responsibility to be creative and flexible and find a way to use the free money from the federal government that is still readily available to them. Small business owners and everyone else are finding ways to make do with what mother nature (minus another Republican point for that reference) gave us; these programs can do the same. Besides, we unfortunately live in a highly political country and era, which means we need to reach across the aisle and all that jazz in order to get support from both sides. The right-wing already thinks these programs don't deserve government funding, and they're wrong of course, but they're especially going to think that if programs aren't using funding that's available.