Wisconsin’s commitment to home and community-based services (HCBS) received a boost, thanks to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). An estimated $350 million in federal funding will help state residents who are elderly or have a disability receive much-needed services to allow them to live as independently as possible. This new funding supports improvements to Wisconsin’s HCBS programs that are unique to the needs and priorities of our residents. HCBS programs receiving funding include:
- Children’s Long-Term Support (CLTS)
- Family Care
- Family Care Partnership
- IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct)
- Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
DHS is also using the funding to improve Wisconsin Medicaid services like personal care, private duty nursing, home health, and habilitative services.
The Wisconsin Wayfinder: Children's Resource Network is now available statewide to families of children with special health care needs. | November 2, 2023
ARPA HCBS funding details
President Biden signed ARPA into law on March 11, 2021. The act provides a total of $1.9 trillion in economic stimulus to aid the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the $350 billion earmarked for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, Wisconsin is receiving $2.5 billion.
Section 9817 of ARPA gives qualifying states a temporary 10% increase to their federal matching percentage on specific home and community-based services from April 1, 2021, through March 31, 2022. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is using ARPA funds to strengthen our HCBS programs, address direct care workforce issues, and develop strategies to delay the need for long-term care. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services granted conditional approval of the plan, allowing Wisconsin to start claiming the increase. We have until March 31, 2025, to invest approximately $350 million in funding.
Nine strategic initiatives led by DHS and funded by ARPA represent much-needed investments to help our most vulnerable state citizens live their best lives.
We rolled out a 5% rate increase for home and community-based services on January 1, 2022. It applies to multiple service providers who work with Medicaid programs, like Family Care, Family Care Partnership, IRIS, PACE, the Children’s Long-Term Supports Program, SSI Managed Care, BadgerCare Plus Managed Care, and Medicaid Fee for Service.
Wisconsin’s frail elders and people of all ages with disabilities rely on HCBS to meet their daily needs. HCBS are a cost-effective alternative to higher-cost institutional services, such as nursing home care or hospital services. Higher reimbursement rates allow HCBS providers to better recruit the staff who are critical to providing care to our members.
Currently, this project looking to establish a minimum fee schedule for select HCBS services.
Wisconsin’s direct caregiving workforce is the backbone of HCBS. To better recruit, support, and retain these vital workers, we are using ARPA funds to:
- Conduct workforce surveys to assess turnover, tenure, wages, benefits, and other factors.
- Implement a tiered-rate career ladder for personal care and supportive home care workers that rewards professional advancement.
- Expand career opportunities through a statewide professional credentialing and continuing education program. Learn more at WisCaregiverCDCP.com.
- Design a statewide registry of direct care workers. It will include credentialing details plus specialty education and expertise. Qualified providers can register here for this free platform, WisCaregiverConnections.
A grants initiative is creating opportunities to strengthen HCBS programs. Currently, over 100,000 children and adults receive HCBS services in Wisconsin. The grants direct new resources to some of the most pressing issues faced by this population. Grants are assisting providers with COVID-19 recovery and improving, enhancing, and expanding their services.
Tribal Long-Term Care Enhancements
Members of Wisconsin’s tribal nations should have access to services that address their unique cultural and policy needs. Wisconsin recently completed a survey of all 11 tribes to identify their home and community-based service system needs. DHS is now working with each tribe to develop a plan to use ARPA funds to meet those needs. In addition, we are making arrangements to fund an aging and disability resource specialist for each tribe.
Many Wisconsin residents who don't require long-term care services or are not currently eligible for Medicaid could benefit from short-term, flexible supports to stay independent and healthy. For example, home modifications or small amounts of supportive home care or respite care would allow more people to remain in their own homes. This would help ease the increased burden on Wisconsin’s long-term care system as our population ages.
DHS is collaborating with stakeholders to implement a pilot program. The pilot will offer short-term, flexible, and limited services and supports for people at risk of entering Medicaid long-term care. This pilot will provide invaluable insight about how people seek information about services and supports. It will also help us understand potential barriers in accessing those services.
Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) serve older adults, adults with disabilities, as well as caregivers and professionals in the community. An ADRC provides unbiased information on a broad range of programs and services, helps people understand the various long-term care options available to them, helps people apply for programs and benefits, and serves as the access point for publicly-funded long-term care. To further support their work, DHS will:
- Develop a searchable website where customers to review can review resources in their community and obtain a point of contact for their local ADRC. This online resource network will provide an additional, accessible way to review services provided in local, in-person offices throughout the state.
- Invest in ADRC outreach and education to connect those in need with information about how an ADRC can help.
- Improve public access to information and resources about publicly funded long-term care programs and other options to remain independent at home.
- Provide modernized technology to ADRCs and aging programs to support their work in serving customers.
Families of children with delays, disabilities, special health care needs, or mental health conditions should be able to find programs and services easily, no matter which county they live in or where they go for help. The “no wrong door” approach means that no matter where or how a family reaches out, they will be able to connect to the resources they need to thrive. Launched in the fall of 2023, Wisconsin Wayfinder supports families at that crucial time following a child’s initial diagnosis, when a specific need is first identified, and throughout the years as the child grows and their needs change.
Assisted Living Reporting, Assessment, and Certification
As our state’s aging population grows, DHS is working to make it easier to collect data from assisted living settings and ensure that data remains secure. That is why we plan to create:
- An online tracking system for certifying 1-2 bed adult family homes. Key features include multiple levels of access to review information, upload documents, and update statuses. This includes portal access for IRIS adult family home providers and MCOs. They will also be able to set up their own accounts and manage certification information.
- A secure, online system to review potential HCBS setting providers. Key features include an online application for DHS to administer standard and heightened scrutiny reviews of these settings. The online system also includes portal access for providers to create their own accounts and view statuses, manage documentation, and update applications and plans.
- A secure, online system to collect data from licensed and certified assisted living providers who will be able to create their own accounts and meet existing reporting requirements. Facility and resident assessment information can be entered to provide information to the Bureau of Assisted Living and help the facilities by providing a framework of areas to be assessed per state licensing/certification regulations and access to review their collected data.
Adult Incident Reporting System
Ensuring the health and safety of people using HCBS is critical. As of December 2023, DHS has developed and implemented a new online system for managed care organizations to report critical incidents to DHS. This new system allows for real-time reporting with improved requirements to assist in tracking and trending data statewide. Using this new data will help DHS identify ways to make needed improvements to increase our member’s health and safety.