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State seeks public comment on federal rule changes to care for elderly, disabled people

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Shamane Mills, Wisconsin Public Radio

The state is seeking public comment from people who will be affected by federal rule changes for home- and community-based services used by elderly and disabled people.

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Twenty years ago, sheltered workshops, group homes and day care for the disabled were seen as innovative, according to Lisa Pugh. But the policy director for Disability Rights Wisconsin said that over time, those approaches have come to be considered antiquated because they don’t promote independence.

“It's not just about a place that has the name 'institution' on it,” Pugh said. “It's really about these qualities of isolation. Things like having no access to transportation, which means that they can't attend a worship service, they can't visit friends and family when they want to. There's not a lot of choice in person's day.”

Now, the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services is requiring states to make changes in care paid for by Medicaid dollars.

“So what has to happen in Wisconsin is that some of the settings we have that currently maybe aren't in line with the rule, really need to make changes so they end up giving people more choice and control in their lives and also open up more choices for community-based activities,” Pugh said.

States have five years to comply with the federal rules. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services is holding a 30-day comment period which began July 30.

Disability Rights Wisconsin is using a survey to gather comments from those affected that will be given to state health officials, called Take a Stand on the Plan. The survey can be found online at http://www.takeastandontheplan.org/index.html.

More WPR news is available on KUWS-FM 91.3.

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