Adult Medicaid Group Homes: Forgotten Again?

In the wake of such tragedies such as the Colorado movie theatre last July, the Sikh temple in Wisconsin in August, Minneapolis in September, then the unthinkable massacre at the Connecticut elementary school in December, and, of course, the Boston bombing in April, you would think that mental health would be a top priority.

Instead, politicians across America are advocating gun laws.  Without commenting on gun control (as this is a Medicaid blog), mental health seems to be getting placed on the back-burner.

In the North Carolina budget passed by the Senate last week, mental health, in particular, group homes for adults with severe mental illnesses, again, was forgotten.  Whether on purpose or by accident, I have no idea.  But the fact remains a large part of metal health simply was not contemplated in the budget.

I am sure most of you remember the comedy of errors that occurred at the beginning of the year when the criteria for personal care services (PCS) was revised.  Basically in January 2013, the criteria to receive PCS became more stringent.

According to DMA, effective January 1, 2013, PCS “is available to individuals who has a medical condition, disability, or cognitive impairment and demonstrates unmet needs for, at a minimum three of the five qualifying activities of daily living (ADLs) with limited hands-on assistance; two ADLs, one of which requires extensive assistance; or two ADLs, one of which requires assistance at the full dependence level. The five qualifying ADLs are eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, and mobility.”

Prior to January 1, 2013, individuals who qualified for Medicaid special room and board assistance were automatically granted approval to receive PCS funding regardless of need. This applied for both in-home and facility-based services.

Due to the more stringent 2013 criteria, thousands of adults in group homes in NC who depended on Medicaid were no longer eligible.  Former Gov. Perdue was forced to shimmy around funds in order to keep these disabled adults from losing their homes.  The whole debacle created terror and stress for those disabled adults whose residences were threatened, for the families of the threatened disabled adults, for the group home executives who did not want to evict these disabled adults, and for any mental health advocate or person with empathy toward the mentally ill.

The trainwreck of the adult PCS group homes only occurred 4-ish months ago.

Yet, lawmakers, seemingly, failed to address the recurrent problem of funding for group homes for adults with severe mental illnesses, who are no longer eligible for PCS, in last week’s budget passed by Senate.

Wednesday afternoon (if you work downtown, then you know what I am talking about) a group of protesters rallied outside the General Assembly clad in blue shirts, holding signs saying, “Save Group Homes!” and “Disaster Relief! Save my Home!,” and some simply said, “Help!”

The Senate’s budget failed to provide funds for approximately 1,450 people living in 6-person group homes.  Each group home resident currently receives $16.14 a day, or about $6,000 a year, from the state program.  The fear is that group homes are so underfunded as it is that any amount, no matter how small, of decreased funds would drive the group homes out of business, forcing residents onto the street.

In general, group homes are not huge money-makers for the owners.  The workers at a group home make approximately $9-10/hour.  Group homes must be staffed 24/hours/day and 365/days/year.  The group homes must use the state-funded money to staff the home, keep up the maintenance of the home, feed all the residents and care for all the residents, plus all overhead (i.e., electricity, heat/air conditioning, any extras for the residents, such as TVs or cable, blankets, etc.).  Plus group homes must provide a small, monthly stipend for the residents in order for the residents purchase medicine (co-pays) and personal hygiene products.

Logically there must be SOME profit in group homes in order for anyone to want to run a group home.  But the profit is minimal.

Similar to the low Medicaid reimbursement rates to physicians, causing physicians to not accept Medicaid, any sort of cut to group home funding (including the residents not qualifying for PCS due to the new criteria and without special funding to cover the difference), group homes will inevitably close.  You simply cannot expect a person to keep a group home open when no profit is made.  Just as if you cannot expect a doctor to accept Medicaid patients if no profit is made.

So, is the State of North Carolina saving money by not providing additional funding to those PCS recipients who no longer qualify for PCS? Hey, the Medicaid budget goes down, right? But what happens to those adults with severe mental illnesses when, because of the lack of PCS funds, the group homes either close or turn out those residents who no longer qualify for PCS?

In a perfect world, I guess the families of the adult Medicaid recipients would take them in and all would be fine.  But I gather there is a reason that these recipients are in a group home and not with family.

No, since this is not a perfect world, most of these adults with severe mental illnesses, without a group home, would be homeless and, eventually, if not immediately, would be hospitalized at a much higher price that a group home.

So these adult Medicaid recipients are stable in a group home. Well-cared for. Most likely, have relationships with the staff and other residents.  But because of the new PCS criteria and the fact that the NC budget does not provide funding for Medicaid residents that no longer qualify for the PCS funding, we will uproot the adults with severe mental illness, send them into the world, expect them to be ok, and, then, later, pay much more money to the hospitals that are forced to take in these Medicaid recipients due to whatever issues caused the hospitalization.

Hmmmm….at least the Medicaid budget is lower.

About kemanuel

Medicare and Medicaid Regulatory Compliance Litigator

Posted on May 30, 2013, in Budget, Division of Medical Assistance, Group Homes, Health Care Providers and Services, Hospitals, Legislation, Medicaid, Medicaid Costs, Medicaid Funds, Medicaid Recipients, Mental Health, Mental Illness, North Carolina, Perdue, Personal Care Services, Reduction in Medicaid Payments and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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