January 24, 2011
Stephanie Smiley, 608-266-1683

Department Seeks Input on Sustainability Initiatives for Wisconsin's Long Term Care Programs

MADISON-Department of Health Services Secretary Dennis G. Smith today launched a website outlining initiatives designed to keep the state's long term care programs sustainable. The proposals were developed after months of studying public long term care programs including Family Care, Include Respect I Self-Direct (IRIS) and PACE and Partnership.

"We reviewed Family Care's level of cost effectiveness and spending, and surveyed individuals on the waiting list about the needs they have," said Smith. "We also worked extensively with consumers, advocates and partners to develop reforms that ensure Wisconsin's long term care programs are sustainable. I would like to thank the partners we worked with to create these proposals, including Disability Rights Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Coalition of Independent Living Centers, Inc., the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, the Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long Term Care and AARP."

Nationally, Medicaid is the largest payment source for long term care. When federal matching funds for Medicaid declined significantly a year ago, Governor Walker and the Legislature committed $1.2 billion in new state funds to help meet those fiscal challenges. Even with those additional funds, the state's long term care programs must be reformed, because population growth and changing demographics will increase demand, leaving the long term care programs at risk. Wisconsin's population age 65 or older will double by 2035.

Family Care and related programs, PACE, Partnership and IRIS, have grown rapidly in recent years, currently serving over 43,000 members. Expenditures have risen to $1.4 billion per year. Given this rapid growth, the Department initiated a review of the program last year. Governor Walker and the Legislature implemented a temporary enrollment cap during the current biennium to allow time for both an audit from the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) and the Department's own analysis to be completed.

Last month, the Governor announced he would lift the enrollment cap and expand the program. The proposed reforms will create the $80 million in GPR over the biennium needed to lift the cap and expand the program and will allow the state to keep these public programs sustainable.

"While we believe our proposals are a step in the right direction, we will take these ideas out on the road to get people's feedback," added Smith. Town hall meeting dates and times will be announced once details are finalized.

The proposals are listed by reform category on the website and include:

  • Encouraging the proper utilization of publicly funded long term care programs through prevention, early intervention, and efficient use of an individual's own resources
  • Providing a continuum of services that ensures the right services are provided at the right level, based on the person's needs
  • Helping people remain in their own homes for as long as possible
  • Ensuring utilization of informal and less intensive supports in the community to help individuals and their caregivers remain healthy and safe at home without the need for more comprehensive long term care supports and services
  • Ensuring that individuals receive the level of self-directed support services they request by strengthening program integrity and accountability
  • Integrating acute, primary, and long term care
  • Improving services for youth transitioning from children's long-term care services to adult services
  • Promoting effective interventions and diversion practices related to nursing homes and assisted living facilities

To view the long-term care sustainability proposals and provide input, visit: