Health and Human Services

Changes to foster care reimbursements proposed

The Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony Feb. 13 on a bill intended to overhaul Nebraska’s foster care reimbursement rate system.

Fullerton Sen. Annette Dubas said LB530 is a continuation of work begun last year to develop foster care reimbursement rates for the state that better reflect the actual cost of caring for children.

A temporary committee was established through legislation passed in 2012 to study foster care reimbursement rates, Dubas said, and LB530 is based on the recommendations made by that committee.

The bill would require the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to implement by July 1, 2013, the reimbursement rates recommended by the committee.

DHHS also would be required to develop a pilot project to implement the standardized level of care assessment tools recommended by the committee. The department would be required to review the pilot program by April 1, 2014, and report to the Legislature.

The bill also would reauthorize the Foster Care Reimbursement Committee, which would make recommendations to DHHS regarding:
• the statewide foster care reimbursement rate structure;
• adoption assistance payments; and
• the statewide standardized level of care assessment.

The committee would report to the Legislature by July 1, 2016, and would re-evaluate the foster care payment system ever four years.

Dubas said Nebraska lags behind other states in the rates that it pays foster families and needs to systematically examine all aspects of the payment structure.

“We have a real opportunity through this bill to create a strong and workable relationship between DHHS and the provider agencies,” she said. “We can capitalize on each others’ strengths and create a foster care system that is truly supportive of caregivers.”

Boys Town director Lana Temple-Plotz, testifying in support of the bill on behalf of the Nebraska Chapter of the Foster Family-Based Treatment Association, agreed. She said recent studies identified Nebraska as one of the states most in need of foster payment rate increases.

“Increasing foster parent reimbursement rates and assessing them on an ongoing basis is essential,” she said.

No opposition testimony was given and the committee took no immediate action on LB530.

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