State proposes Medicaid adjustment as Boomers enter system

The Minnesota Department of Human Services unveiled a proposal this week to adjust the state's Medicaid program to prepare for the expected influx of aging Baby Boomers.

The agency plans to hold at least two public meetings in the next week to gather input on the plan, which includes proposals for more consumer engagement and the streamlining of the state's purchasing systems.

DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said the biggest change in the plan is an increased emphasis on home and community services that allow people to stay longer in their homes.

"We're not trying to take anything away from people who need the intensive high-end services. If they need that, and they qualify for Medicaid, they should have those services," Jesson said. "For people who are elderly, who have disabilities, we're trying to reach them earlier with more support, so they can live in the community longer and better, and stay away from more expensive institutions and group home settings."

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Jesson said costs in the current system would become unsustainable as Baby Boomers enter the system. She said the proposed changes could save the state money in the long run.

"This reform will broaden the number of people we'll be able to serve," Jesson said. "We're not trying to take anything away from people who need the intensive high-end services, if they need that and they qualify for Medicaid they should have those services."

The agency asks the federal government for permission to contract directly with medical providers, rather than just with health plans. The plan also includes proposals to create consumer report cards, housing and employment services and an Alzheimer's early detection program.

Jesson said some of the agency's proposals could be in place by January 2014 if they're approved by the federal government and, in some cases, the state Legislature.

Consumers have until mid-July to offer comments on the plan. The first hearing will be on June 22 at the Minnesota Department of Health. A second hearing will be on June 25 at the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Written comments are also accepted.