Walker Looks to Expand Family Care

MacIver News Service | December 28, 2011

[Madison, Wisc…] Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said Wednesday he will ask lawmakers to lift enrollment caps for Family Care and expand the program to all counties in the state.

The current state budget included a $1.2 billion increase to Medicaid.  Walker’s new proposal would cost $80 million for the remainder of the biennium. He said with the funding increase included in the 2011-2013 budget and recent efficiencies implemented by the Department of Health Services, his proposal would require no additional funding.

Gov. Scott Walker

“It was really built off the fact that we put an unprecedented amount of new funding into Medicaid, more than $1.2 billion was added this budget,” said Walker. “That’s one of the largest increases of any state in the country,” Walker said at a press conference Wednesday.

Family Care is a program that provides long-term care focused on helping senior citizens and disabled individuals stay in their homes.

Earlier this year an enrollment cap was placed on Family Care in response to a Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) evaluation which found a number of areas the program could be improved and made more efficient.  After a briefing on the work done by DHS over the past couple of months Walker announced a plan to lift the Family Care cap. Governor Walker’s plan also calls for Family Care to be expanded to additional counties.

“I am confident that Family Care can continue to be implemented efficiently and cost effectively,” said Governor Walker.  “Lifting the cap will be done in a way that respects taxpayers and is mindful of their investment, while at the same time providing care for those who are truly in need.”

The Governor’s hopes for legislative action and DHS implementation  of the Family Care expansion by this spring. He said the pause in the wake of the audit helped stabilized the program for the future.

“It really put us in a position where we could support many of the other programs we have and through these changes and improvements, ensure that not only we could lift the cap for Family Care, but also to do so in a way that is sustainable long into the future, long beyond just this current budget cycle we’re in,” Walker said.

About 14 counties currently do not offer the program, mostly in the northeastern part of the state.

Walker hopes the legislature will take up his proposal in the coming weeks, and expects broad bipartisan support.

Also at the announcement today to support the lifting of the enrollment cap was Lynn Breedlove from Disability Rights Wisconsin, Heather Bruemmer Executive Director of the Board on Aging and Long Term Care, Kim Marheine from the Board on Aging and Long Term Care, Beth Sweeden from the Board for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, Maureen Ryan with the Wisconsin Coalition of Independent Living Centers, Michael Blumenfeld representing several MCOs, Teri Buros from Southwest Wisconsin Family Center, State Senator Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls), and State Representative Dean Kaufert (R-Neenah).