Disability groups hit back on Medicaid reduction plan

Medicaid plan
Nikki Villavicencio, left, of St. Paul, and Corbett Laubignat, of Bloomington, appear at a news conference at the State Office Building in St. Paul on Monday, Jan. 31, 2011. Villavicencio and Laubignat criticized -- and threw in the trash can -- a HMO proposal that would scale back the state's Medicaid benefits.
MPR Photo/Lorna Benson

A coalition of disabled Minnesotans and their advocates on Monday blasted a proposal that would scale back the state's Medicaid benefits.

Last week a group of seven health plans and hospitals floated a cost-cutting plan that they said could eliminate nearly a third of the state's $6.2 billion budget shortfall. One of their recommendations would move individuals with disabilities into managed care.

During a news conference, disabled Minnesotans questioned the motives of the health plans.

"They simply don't have the experience serving high-need, complex persons with disabilities," said Steve Larson, co-chair of the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. "They have never wanted to provide coverage. But now it seems doing business with public programs is a revenue generator."

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The plan is full of factual errors, Larson said.

"The health plans proposed a 5 percent across-the-board cut of all waiver programs," he said. "It's a business they're not even in. And yet they're proposing a 5 percent cut. That would be like me, who knows nothing about running hospitals, saying that hospitals should take a 5 percent across-the-board cut."

Cindy Johnson spoke on behalf of her daughter Jenna, who needs state-subsidized care from a personal attendant. Johnson said the health plans have a lot of nerve suggesting ideas that determine the fate of disabled Minnesotans, without even consulting them first.

"I would challenge them, Allina, Blue Cross, Medica and all the others to join us in any cuts that they're suggesting to the disability and elderly community," Johnson said. "They could join us with a 5 percent cut to their wages, benefit packages, executive compensation and actually all their expenses across the board. I didn't see that in the report."

The organizations behind the plan acknowledged that any health care cuts would be painful. But they said Minnesota's Medicaid benefits are more generous than many states.

The health plans and hospital groups say the proposal isn't intended to be the final word on the fate of the state's health budget, but rather as a discussion starter.

Commissioner of Human Services Lucinda Jesson has agreed to meet with disability advocates Tuesday morning to hear their concerns. She will meet with health plan leaders later in the day.