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Local OPWDD agencies still face reduction in Medicaid funds

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Nonprofit agencies that receive funding from the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities will not receive a 6 percent Medicaid cut as originally thought in the 2013-14 state budget.

Instead, those organizations are unsure how they will be affected by reductions after the state recovers money from Medicaid billing mistakes, makes specific direct cuts to providers and begins a multi-step transformation schedule.

The transformation involves assisting people who are developmentally disabled find employment so that agencies can provide less intense services to some, a self-direction movement that allows families or individuals to get a pot of money that they will manage, instead of having an agency manage it for them. It also seeks to move developmentally disabled living in institutional settings to community residences.

Jefferson Rehabilitation Center may not have to worry too much about a loss of funds, according to Executive Director Howard W. Ganter. He said the agency may get audited, as other nonprofits may.

“The direct impact other than that won’t be much for us,” he said.

North country nonprofits were set to lose more than $4 million in Medicaid funding through the original 6 percent cut. JRC alone could have lost $1.125 million. A total of $120 million was to be cut statewide, but advocacy efforts reduced that to $90 million, or by 4.5 percent.

If the state does not collect all $90 million from its three main efforts, it will take the remaining amount to be saved from the state’s general fund, Mr. Ganter said. That would ensure agencies won’t face more direct impact.

These recent decisions, he said, are a result of the state and U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services negotiating for a few years on Medicaid overpayment issues.

Aida A. Mariani, director of public relations and development at Oneida-Lewis NYSARC, said as agencies have faced Medicaid cuts in past years, “there’s always going to be some kind of issue that comes up over the years.”

Since there is no flat 6 percent or 4.5 percent cut, Ms. Mariani said, the Oneida-Lewis NYSARC considers the recent decision a win for the agency even if it does not provide any new funding.

Disabled Persons Action Organization Executive Director Cynthia L. FitzPatrick said changes from the original cuts will provide some relief to DPAO, which offers services to people with disabilities in Jefferson and Lewis counties.

“If they don’t cut us back as much as they’ve been saying, it’ll ease things up on us,” she said. “We aren’t going to let cuts impact services at all.”

It’s DPAO’s employees who would be affected, by having no cost-of-living adjustments in their pay and benefit changes.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ganter said, the significant reductions could not have been avoided without the support of all local elected officials.

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