DHS Working To Eliminate Medicaid Waiver Waitlist; Advocates Express Concerns


Monday, June 7th 2021, 5:03 pm
By: Augusta McDonnell


OKLAHOMA CITY -

Oklahoma health services officials are making an effort to eliminate the waiting list for services for people with certain types of developmental disabilities, according to Samantha Galloway, department of health services chief of staff. 

Right now, that waiting list is 13 years long. 

The waiting list is for the Home and Community Based Services Medicaid waiver that pays for services to keep someone with a disabling developmental issue living in their home or community. 

Galloway said that DHS is certain they have the support to make a bold move for funding that will support eliminating the waiting list.

“The governor’s office is super supportive, the House is super supportive, the Senate is super supportive, now is the exact right time,” she said. 

There are over 5,800 families on the waiting list. In the next six months, everyone will be contacted by an assessment group to talk about their family’s needs, Galloway said. 

In January, DHS will be presenting an analysis of needs and a cost estimate to lawmakers to come up with a plan to eliminate the waiting list. 

“This really is a game changer for the state of Oklahoma, and we really want to honor the commitment that we’ve said in the legislature for the five years that I’ve been here, that these people are important that we want to give them the dignity and the care that they deserve,” said Mark Lawson, appropriations and budget subcommittee chairman of the health services committee. 

But family advocates want to make sure the effort to eliminate the waiting list doesn’t shortchange families who need lifelong services that this waiver provides.  

“What we don’t want to see happen is short term solutions being offered to families in exchange for eliminating the waiting list,” said Lisa Turner, Arc of Oklahoma executive director and mother of a waiting list applicant. 

Even if immediate needs are met and families are taken off the waiting list, families could still be left in need if they aren’t in line for a life-long solution, she said. 

“Families that have children on the waiting list are living day by day, minute by minute. So, their need today is what they are focusing on, and maybe not focusing on when [the child] graduates from high school, or if [the parents’] health fails and they can no longer care for their child,” Turner said. 

The third-party contract to complete the assessment was awarded to Liberty of Oklahoma. Liberty is in talks now to determine a timeline for the assessment, according to Sue Nayda, Liberty of Oklahoma chief operating officer.