A Senate panel earlier this month took the first steps toward overhauling a complicated and expensive program designed to help thousands of Florida residents with developmental and intellectual disabilities, News4JAX reports.
The proposal (SB 82), sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, would represent a significant change to what is known as the iBudget program, which receives state and federal money to provide an array of Medicaid services so people with disabilities can live at home and outside of institutions.
The legislation drew passionate testimony in opposition. But Bean tried to assuage detractors, contending that his bill would not result in reductions in services.
“The demise of this bill would occur should we make reductions in people’s lifelines, so that’s not where we’re going,” Bean told members of the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. But Bean’s bill would revamp how people with disabilities get access to support coordinators and how they appeal decisions related to the amounts of money they are allocated, two issues that advocates say are critical.Republicans are pushing for changes in the wake of perennial deficits in the program.
“To the public and everyone who’s on this waiver (program) … if we don’t make changes, the whole thing is going to collapse under its weight,’’ Bean said.
Currently, families and people with disabilities can choose from 1,082 support coordinators across the state. The coordinators are on call for clients around the clock and help them obtain services needed to live in the community.
Bean’s bill would have the state competitively bid those services and ultimately award contracts to two or more organisations. The competitive procurement would have to be initiated by Oct. 1.