Understanding upcoming changes to early intervention and preschool services, Part 1

Early intervention and preschool services to children who have disabilities will be scrutinized heavily in the upcoming year and many reforms are being discussed. This summary is a general outline of some of the salient drivers that are impacting reform efforts in New York State.

I strongly recommend starting your reading with the Reforming Mandates, Reducing Costs report that was written by the New York State Association of Counties. This report was submitted to the Medicaid Redesign Team last year to provide input about the unsustainable increasing costs of these programs.

Mandated Medicaid costs are crippling County budgets, and have been for many years. Most recently the State entered into a settlement agreement with the Federal Government often referred to as the State Plan Amendment. This settlement is the contract between New York State and Federal government whereby the State agrees to administer the Medicaid program in accordance with Federal law and policy. This agreement imposed backdated requirements that made it virtually impossible for Counties to receive payments for services that should have been reimbursable as they were compliant with rules in place at the time. This placed a very large strain on this particular component of Medicaid reimbursements to Counties.

Recently enacted property tax caps complicate the situation. You don't need to be an accountant or the County Comptroller to understand that rising costs, lack of reimbursements, and constricted income all spell a recipe for disaster. In short, Counties are being crippled by these programs.

County budgeting staff are at their wits end, and that is why you see proposals from Counties like removing them from the fiscal, contractual and programmatic responsibilities of the program, limiting eligibility to individuals that have greater delays in development, requiring some family financial participation based on income, increasing the County role in developing and writing Individual Education Plans, centralizing organization to the County as opposed to the district level, requiring parent participation for non-working parents, and eliminating contracting/fee for service arrangements because of the inherent conflict of interest with the current system. All of these and more recommendations were made to the Medicaid Redesign Team.

Some of these recommendations are more reasonable than others, but the point in reading this report is that it will help people understand the desperation of Counties.

Providers and parents may not understand these dynamics as well as they need too - I frequently hear calls to contact the NYS Department of Health, or to lobby the school districts, or to make noise in general to their legislators about how these services can not be touched. All of these call to action are potentially misguided. The ability to understand the problem starts at the level of the Counties and their Medicaid budgets and an analysis of the unsustainable growth of these programs and the inability to meet these costs within the current and expected fiscal environments.

You will not help this situation by yelling at your CPSE Chairperson. You have to start with your County legislators and understanding the broad dilemma that they are in.

Readers here are being informed that Governor Cuomo HEARS the Counties and UNDERSTANDS the dilemma. He released his Executive Budget yesterday that calls for some dramatic reform to how these systems are administrated. This WILL have a large impact on service eligibility and service provision - it WILL NOT just be a switch to billing a new entity.

Future posts here will cover the inability to NY State to effectively administrate EI billing, inability to recoup revenues, and inability to effective coordinate via the well-intentioned but very broken NYEIS system, the Counties' calls to the Governor to act on these problems, the rock and hard place of Counties with respect to the property tax cap, and what the Governor's proposals will mean for actual service provision.

This will also include a deep exploration of our own social and cultural values. The large question to answer is 'What is society's responsibilities for these programs.' It will be an interesting ride for the next couple of years as all this plays out.

Stay tuned for ongoing analysis.


Staying tuned. Thanks, Chris. Just reporting this in a cogent manner is quite the task.

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