Rate increase for developmental disability providers sought

The Appropriations Committee heard testimony March 14 on a bill that would increase rates for providers of community-based developmental disability services.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist10' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Bob Krist'>Sen. Bob Krist</a>
Sen. Bob Krist

Under LB206, introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, provider rates would increase by approximately 3 percent over the next two fiscal years. The bill would appropriate $4.4 million in general funds in FY2017-18 and $8.9 million in FY2018-19 for the rate increases, which would be matched by federal funds.

Krist acknowledged the state’s difficult budget situation, but said the small rate increases secured by providers in the past have been insufficient to meet the needs of Nebraskans with developmental disabilities.

“I’m well aware that we do not have the money to fund everything that we would like to fund,” he said. “The state, however, does have an obligation to fund basic government services and this is one of those functions that we can’t just ignore.”

Alan Zavodny, CEO of NorthStar Services – a developmental disability services provider – testified in support of the bill. Providing services to individuals with disabilities is the legal responsibility of the state, he said, and companies such as his need adequate funding in order to carry out those services.

The last rate study was conducted in 2011, he said, so current rates do not reflect the existence of the Affordable Care Act, the recent increase in Nebraska’s minimum wage or the cost shift from the state to providers for employee background checks.

“We are not a special interest group asking for money,” Zavodny said. “We are conducting your business and can no longer afford to do so.”

Michael Chittenden, executive director of the Arc of Nebraska, also supported the bill, which he said would adequately fund the state’s developmental disability providers. The cost of doing business rises by 3 or 4 percent per year, he said, and state rates have not kept pace.

“Historically, this group of business people has been treated very poorly,” Chittenden said. “[In part because] they are not allowed to negotiate their rates or contracts.”

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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