Developmental disability services evaluation proposed

Members of the Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony Jan. 26 on a bill that would require an evaluation of Nebraska’s developmental disability services system.

Sen. John Arch
Sen. John Arch

LB1004, sponsored by the committee, would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to engage a nationally recognized consultant to conduct an evaluation of services offered and provided by the state through Medicaid and any additional areas that may be beneficial to an assessment.

The report would be due to the committee by Dec. 31, 2022.

La Vista Sen. John Arch, chairperson of the committee, said Nebraska ranks 32nd in the number of people who identify as disabled, yet 5th in the nation in spending per Medicaid enrollee. He said that disparity, along with continued problems with the state’s disability services wait list, mean it’s time for a thorough examination of how Nebraska provides such services and what improvements can be made moving forward.

“We all know that this is going to be a pretty heavy lift,” Arch said. “Lives are involved.”

Alana Schriver, executive director of the Nebraska Association of Service Providers, testified in support of the proposal. The pandemic exacerbated existing problems with the state’s disability services system, she said, most notably the impact of insufficient provider rates.

Most providers operated at a loss last year, she said, and kept their doors open through relying on savings because reimbursement rates are below the cost of care. Any evaluation of the system must include an examination of provider rates, she said.

“The status quo isn’t working,” Schriver said. “Without providers, there are no services.”

Arc of Nebraska Executive Director Edison McDonald also testified in support. He said an assessment is needed due in part to the state’s current prioritization of the home and community-based services waiver, which he said has negatively impacted the ability of many Nebraska families to receive services.

No one testified in opposition to LB1004 and the committee took no immediate action.

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