Updates from ODP
Viewed as a leader in our industry, InVision strategically and actively participates in provider associations such as The Provider Alliance (TPA), Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources (PAR), and others for the opportunities to learn from, share with, and impact the provider community.
TPA is comprised of member organizations that collectively support more than 35,000 people, employ 15,000 workers across the state, and manage more than $1.5 billion in public funds. These organizations often join in collaboration and information sharing to promote best practices and advocate for the issues impacting the people we support and the people we employ.
Earlier this month, TPA members assembled and were joined by Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) Deputy Secretary Kristin Ahrens, who provided policy updates and data. Fee schedule rates were republished due to the promulgation of Chapter 6100 regulations and to provide an opportunity for formal dispute of payment rates for service provision. The Deputy Secretary stated that the republication of rates in no way comments on a future rate refresh.
Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) systems have been implemented in two states without having requested good faith effort exemption to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Such an exemption allows states to delay implementation for one year and is approved when states are able to demonstrate good faith efforts to comply and have experienced unavoidable delays. Pennsylvania did apply for the exemption, and Kristin Ahrens conveyed confidence that PA demonstrated appropriate efforts. We await a response from CMS. It was added that the EVV page on the Department of Human Services (DHS) website is updated in real time, and providers may continue to reference the site for updates.
Of particular interest was the update to the commonwealth’s decision to close two of the four remaining state institutions for people with intellectual disability and autism. On November 18, the PA Senate voted in favor of a moratorium that would effectively halt the closures of the institutions with a heavy support of 40-9. When then presented to the PA House Health and Human Services committee, Speaker of the House Mike Turzai of Allegheny County requested that the bill be delayed and is expected to be presented on the House floor on December 18.
Kristin Ahrens spoke to the complicated, controversial, and political aspects of the bill citing a profound misunderstanding of how sophisticated the community system service provision is. She added that with politics at play, her intent is to bring the conversation back to the lives of people being supported and referenced the many thousands of people on the waiting list who want the commonwealth to be responsible with resources. Lastly, the Deputy Secretary indicated that in speaking with people supported in the community system regarding the possibility of keeping institutions open, “self-advocates have expressed a real and true fear that we are going backwards and that they can and will be institutionalized”.
As part of the transition plan for closure, meetings with the family members of people living in the institutions are invited to meet with providers to learn about the community system. These are scheduled for December, January, and February. Kristin Ahrens indicated that ODP is proceeding with the transition plan until a decision is made otherwise. She encouraged providers to make known to leadership what the community system looks like today.
During Q&A, InVision Founder and President/CEO Ruth Siegfried reflected the Deputy Secretary’s sentiments, further encouraging providers to reach out to legislators and advocate for support of the closures and offer education on what the community system can provide. She recommended that when talking with legislators, providers should also take the opportunity to illustrate the issues we face and “ask that our DSP workforce be paid a wage for all they are asked to do”.
The Deputy Secretary closed her presentation with a focus on Lifelong Learning, citing that the population we serve was previously considered ineducable until the right to education was adopted. She invited providers to review their methodologies for continual opportunities to learn with the ultimate goal of empowerment and engagement in civic, social, and cultural life.