Dhs policy changes imperil the oaks news menastar.com

With the sudden availability of these funds, Ouachita River Seniors, Inc. began planning an assisted living facility that would open up all of the benefits associated with these this kind of elderly care model to the underserved rural community of Polk County. Eight years later construction began on the Oaks at Mena, and the assisted living facility was completed the following year in June 2011. The Oaks at Mena opened its doors as a place for the elderly who rely on medicaid to pay for healthcare, offering thirty spots strictly available for this type of patient.

For the past seven years the Oaks has been offering quality care to these older community members restricted by Medicaid .

The holistic approach to their care options have ensured a comfortable and pleasant environment for those nearing the end of life. As stated on the Oaks at Mena website, the services they provide include but are not limited to: three home-cooked meals each day, nutritious snacks, an active social and recreation program, weekly housekeeping and linen service, scheduled transportation for local medical care, appointments, shopping and community services, all utilities paid, non-smoking environment, daily assistance with dressing, grooming, toileting and all activities of daily living.

It may seem tragic, then, that proposed ‘updates’ to the rules governing five different Arkansas Medicaid programs are likely going to result in the complete shuttering of the Oaks at Mena, as well as similarly dire consequences for four other facilities in the state that solely serve elderly individuals on Medicaid. Should the Oaks have no option but to close when the new rules go into effect January 1, 2019, twenty five employees will be out of work. Taken in conjunction with the reality that all residents at the facility will be put into a nursing home if they cannot afford any alternative, the caustic nature of the proposed ‘updates’ becomes clear.

These new changes are a product of the DHS Division of Medical Services (DMS), and are far too complex to distill into a single article. Future articles will endeavor to unpack the intricacies of what has been suggested by the DMS, but for now, the most concise rundown possible will be given so as to start a much needed community wide conversation.

If the proposed rule changes are amended in no way between now and their implementation in the New Year, Medicaid patients in assisted living will see the funds allotted for their daily care cut by roughly twenty two percent. This is a drop from an eighty dollars per day maximum to an allowance capped at sixty two dollars per day, and this eighteen dollar difference has enormous implications for the quality of care elderly men and women in the community will be allowed to receive. Mike Shepard, an assisted living provider whose facilities include the Peachtree Mena, explained that degradation in the services provided is imminent because when all other costs associated with running a facility are fixed, the only place open for making cuts to recover lost revenue is the staffing.

Shepard is responsible for a number of assisted living facilities in the state, and he is fighting hard. The homes he oversees are not limited to providing only for Medicaid recipients, and so his facilities for the elderly are in less danger of immediately closing. That being said, a facility like Peachtree Mena will still be grappling with a $10,000 per month revenue loss should the DMS guidelines go into effect as planned.

To make matters worse, a complicated waitlist system created as a result of previous caps placed on the number of Medicaid users eligible for assisted living has resulted in a situation where, by state law, beds designated for elderly people insured by Medicaid that free up after February 1st, the single date where available beds are filled, must go empty until the date rolls around again. New ‘updates’ do not seek to solve this problem, and Shepard emphasized that a current estimate has predicted a new slot at an assisted living facility for an elderly community member on Medicaid will not open again until 2020. At most recent count, there are 140 men and women on the waiting list.

This brings the conversation back to the Oaks at Mena. The laws under which it was built prevent the facility from offering select beds to patients paying privately, a move that, if permitted, would provide the one avenue for keeping the Oaks open. Dr. Richard Black, a retired resident who is working tirelessly with other community members to save the Oaks at Mena, said at the October 12th meeting of the Mena Lions Club that this condition has proven impossible to circumvent.

Rep. John Maddox is one such individual aiming to keep the facility alive, but through attempted actions in the Arkansas House of Representatives, the elected official serving District 20 has come to the conclusion that these proposed changes will only be stopped with action by the DHS and its Division of Medical Services. Polk County Judge Brandon Ellison has also made efforts to halt the oncoming disaster, and the men of the Mena Lions Club similarly have begun to take up the mantle of this cause. The Oaks at Mena is currently running through its $50,000 in reserves at a rate of $5,000 a month, the wick of the facility flame will not burn much longer as it stands. More precisely, the light at the Oaks could extinguish in two and a half months.

Dr. Black did not shy away from discussion of the rationale behind the DMS proposals. A desire to slash funds for Medicaid recipients begins at the federal level of the Department of Human Services and permeates the operating policy at the state level here in Arkansas, a sentiment that seems to suggest the medical care of some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens is an expendable service. Given that as of June 2018, 885,153 Arkansas residents -a statistic provided by July 2018 Enrollment Report accessible on medicaid.gov – were enrolled in the Medicaid and Child Health Insurance Programs, this sort of attitude should be alarming.

Nearly a third of all people living in this state will likely confront a drop in the quality of the health coverage they’re allowed at some point in the near future. Any elderly or disabled person whose quality of life hinges on one of the five Arkansas Medicaid programs and services facing changes is invariably going to suffer. These programs are: ARChoices in Homecare Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Waiver Program (ARChoices), Living Choices Assisted Living HCBS Waiver Program, Medicaid Self-Directed Personal Assistance Services Program (IndependentChoices), Medicaid Personal Care Services delivered under the Medicaid State Plan, and the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).