Groups Sue to Halt 7% Cuts to Disability Services in Minnesota

  • Individuals and provider advocacy organizations argue state must uphold current rates

Mankato Times

SAINT PAUL, MINN. – The Association of Residential Resources of Minnesota (ARRM) joined the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) and several individuals with disabilities in filing suit in federal court against Commissioner of Human Services Emily Johnson Piper, seeking an emergency injunction against the implementation of a 7 percent cut to the rates for community-based supportive services. The cut is set to go into effect on July 1.

“This cut will cause irreparable harm to our members and the people with disabilities they support as we are already in the midst of a workforce crisis due in large part to lack of wage competition,” said Sue Schettle, CEO of ARRM. “Since the complete breakdown of the legislative process failed to produce a sustainable fix to the regulatory dispute driving DHS to enact the cut, we are forced to seek injunctive relief from federal court to address this critical issue.”

The suit claims current Minnesota statute – unchanged as a result of Governor Mark Dayton’s veto of the omnibus supplemental spending bill – obligates Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) to continue to fully fund its obligations to the service rates paid for through the state’s Medicaid waivers, which allow people with disabilities to access an array of supports to live and work in community settings. It further claims provisions in federal law do not allow the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to withhold its matching Medicaid dollars should a court order compel the DHS to continue to fund services at existing rates.

Senator Jim Abeler, R- SD35, Chair of Human Services Reform Finance and Policy, says he hopes the lawsuit is successful.

“There is no debate about the need for the funding. I am disappointed that DHS and CMS couldn’t come to terms. DHS has not been a real strong supporter of this and gave a very weak appeal to the CMS,” Senator Jim Abeler, R- SD35 “Disability services covers over 30,000 people and they can barely find enough people to do the work as it is. I hope the lawsuit is successful.”

Plaintiffs say an injunction is needed immediately because organizations and people with disabilities face devastating impacts should the cut go into effect.

Mike Burke, president of MOHR, represents more than 100 Minnesota day service providers. “All we are looking for is for some sense of long term stability,” said Burke. “Stability in a system that will allow us to pay our staff competitive wages, which ultimately helps thousands of people with disabilities across the state who rely on our services for their quality of life.”

The 7 percent cut was triggered by a CMS decision back in February to withdraw its match of a 3-year-old rate adjustment due to an inadvertent conflict with other rate changes made in 2017. The state, in turn, negated its portion of the rate adjustment, which plaintiffs argue it has no authority to do as state law still recognizes this funding obligation. Advocates tried to pass their own fix to this issue during the 2018 legislative session but the resolution was struck down as part of the Governor’s veto. Should the injunction be granted, advocates will work with legislators and the new Governor’s administration to permanently address the problem in the next legislative session.

Sam Orbovich of Fredrikson & Byron is representing the plaintiffs in their petition.

About ARRM

ARRM is a nonprofit association of more than 200 Minnesota providers, businesses and advocates dedicated to leading the advancement of community-based services that support people living with disabilities in their pursuit of meaningful lives.  ARRM members support people with developmental, intellectual and physical disabilities including autism, brain injury and mental health needs. People served live in their own homes, adult foster care settings, and other community settings.  Founded in 1970, ARRM continues to lead positive industry reforms that support Minnesotans with disabilities. To learn more, visit arrm.org, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About MOHR

The Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) is comprised of more than 100 Adult Day, Day Training & Habilitation, Extended Employment, and Supported Employment Service provider members serving in excess of 26,000 Minnesotans with disabilities.  Members proudly offer a broad array of quality options to realize the work and life enrichment goals of the people who have chosen these services. MOHR has a mission to advocate and support its nonprofit members in providing meaningful services to persons with disabilities and communities served.  Members are committed to respect for each individual, a person-centered approach and expanding work opportunities. More information is available at mohrmn.org.

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