Health and Human Services

Developmental disability waiver proposal stalls

A bill intended to supplement existing services for children with developmental disabilities in Nebraska did not advance from select file May 18 after a motion to end debate and force a vote on the proposal failed.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh
Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh

LB376, as introduced by Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh and amended on general file, would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to apply for a three-year Medicaid waiver to start a family support program for developmental disability services. The program would:
• have an annual budget for long-term services and supports capped at $10,000 per person;
• allow approximately 850 individuals currently on the state’s wait list to participate;
• offer Medicaid eligibility for children with disabilities by disregarding parental income;
• be administered by the state Division of Developmental Disabilities of DHHS; and
• allow families to self-direct services.

The family support program would be set at an intermediate care facility institutional level of care. The bill also would require DHHS to collaborate with private nonprofits, if private funding is available, to complete an independent evaluation of the program.

Cavanaugh said that waiving the income eligibility requirements would expand program access to several hundred Nebraska children who otherwise qualify for developmental disability services but currently do not receive them.

“These services are very expensive,” she said. “That’s why waiving this income eligibility is so critical to these 403 [kids]. They’re going to get the full array of medical services that they need to thrive as adults.”

La Vista Sen. John Arch supported the bill, calling it a way to address the needs of nearly 3,000 Nebraskans who currently are awaiting developmental disability services. By expanding the program to more children for three years, the state could determine whether early intervention could prevent institutional care later in life, he said.

“This was an attempt to strategically address this wait list, not to simply put more dollars to it,” Arch said.

Sen. Julie Slama of Peru opposed the bill. She said LB376 would only temporarily address the current wait list and possibly could create a second wait list.

“Once [an individual reaches] adulthood the individual would likely need to go back onto the larger developmental disabilities wait list so we’ll see a doubling back … this would create a services cliff,” Slama said.

Kearney Sen. John Lowe also opposed the bill, saying its general fund impact — estimated at $3.8 million in fiscal year 2021-22 and $7.7 million in FY2022-23 — was too high. He also expressed skepticism that the new waiver program would end in three years.

“Once we start something, we never get rid of it,” Lowe said.

After four hours of debate, Cavanaugh filed a motion to invoke cloture. The motion, which needed 33 votes to end debate, failed 30-11. A failed cloture motion results in debate on a proposal ceasing for the day. LB376 is unlikely to be placed on the agenda again this session.

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