Federal Medicaid Office Says Oklahoma Law Limiting Medicaid Support Is Illegal


Tuesday, September 21st 2021, 5:19 pm
By: Augusta McDonnell


OKLAHOMA CITY -

There’s a roughly 13 year waiting list for people to get home and community-based care for their family members with disabilities. 

While the state works to eliminate this waiting list, one of their efforts is now being called illegal by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). 

There was a law passed this year that said a family had to live in Oklahoma for five years before they could apply for certain types of Medicaid support. 

The law, now considered illegal, was created as a part of a larger state effort to eliminate the waiting list by funding the types of services that people are waiting over a decade to receive. 

In a statement, the state Department of Human Services said:

“We will not waiver in our mission to find solutions to end the waiting list in Oklahoma and are reviewing all options to that end.” 

DHS contracted with a company this summer to try to contact every single family on the waiting list -- almost 6000 -- and find out what the family needed. 

 “We want to actually have a really good understanding of what people need, because we’re going to use that information to put a cost estimate together that we’re going to take to the Legislature, and hopefully we’ll develop a plan for total elimination. It's a pretty bold plan,” said Samantha Galloway, DHS chief of staff. 

State officials said the law was intended as a buffer. 

They’re concerned that people will actually move to Oklahoma to receive services if the Legislature approves a large amount of funding this upcoming session.

But disability rights advocates generally never liked the law, and a group of them actually reported it to CMS. 

Oklahoma Disability Law Center’s Brian Wilkerson said their group was pleased with the CMS response and that they “remain committed to ensuring that all Oklahomans with disabilities are able to access programs and services without discrimination or illegal delays.”

The assessment process is being closely watched by advocates. 

“What we’ve found in the past is when DHS closed cases, that the majority of the time, a smaller percentage of them are actually getting connected to services. Many of them are dying while they’re on the waiting list, so they are a closed case,” said Lisa Turner, Arc of Oklahoma director. 

Bobbie Westmoreland is the mother of two children on the waiting list. She said she is unsure about why the state is making this move now. 

“They could eliminate the waitlist, but they could also change the guidelines for eligibility. So a lot of people are really concerned, like what does this mean for my child or my family? Like we’ve been waiting already for 10 years and they could potentially get bumped off of this list,” she said. 

For any families on the waitlist, there are some Zoom information meetings next week with the assessment company.