Parents, foster parents and private agency workers spoke out last week against changes proposed for a Medicaid program that serves Alaska children and adults.
During a three-hour public hearing Wednesday, opponents of the plan stood before state officials and voiced their concerns about changes that would affect a Medicaid program that serves 2,700 Alaska children and adults in their own homes, in foster homes or in assisted-living homes. These people have intense needs because of severe medical conditions, physical and mental disabilities, and the effects of aging.
More than 100 people attended the hearing. Of the dozens who testified, nobody spoke in favor of the changes.
Among other things, the state is proposing to limit services it pays for, bar the purchase of some special equipment, increase standards for workers who coordinate care, restrict money for home modifications such as wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, and put major new restrictions on foster families.
Under the proposals, the state would regress to institutionalization, critics of the regulation changes argue.
"We're going to go back to the dark days of Alaska," said Bonnie Lange, a foster mother who has taken in numerous children with severe medical needs.
State officials said they want to tighten some loose regulations, in part to bring them in line with federal requirements.
Under one change, foster families in the program could have no more than four people in a home. But disabled and sick children blossom when around other kids, foster parents testified.
The state also is proposing to cut off people from services if they are a danger to their caregivers.
The regulations, if approved by the Department of Health and Social Services, would carry the force of law.