Crouch tours Easterseals

November 28, 2018

The state should raise Medicaid reimbursement rates to help agencies that provide care and services to people with disabilities, Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said Tuesday during a Fort Wayne visit.

Crouch leads a task force that issued recommendations in October for increased access to services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She said the rates are essential to ensuring providers can offer services and pay employees competitive wages.

The rates, which vary depending on the needs of the person receiving services, are set by the state. Lawmakers last raised the rates in 2015, but they are due for another hike, said Crouch and Donna Elbrecht, Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana president and CEO.

“The amount of reimbursement is a huge issue,” Crouch said. “We are looking to raise them again because we want the people who work in this field to get a competitive wage.”

She made the comments before a tour Tuesday morning of the Easterseals facility on Coldwater Road. The nonprofit runs programs such as employment services and adult day care for about 1,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Elbrecht said services include help with basic life skills residential programs. Easterseals assists many who need help, she said, but an increase in reimbursement rates could help it do more.

“The rates typically are flat for many years,” Elbrecht said. “We’re always looking to raise our rates overall. (Crouch) is a real advocate for people with disabilities. She really understands the people we serve.” 

Crouch did not say how much they should be raised.

She chaired the Task Force for Assessment of Services and Supports for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, which was put in place in 2017 by the Indiana General Assembly. A report released by the panel in October recommends increasing funding for service providers and cites comments from public input sessions that indicated reimbursement rates for service providers are inadequate. 

“The rates don’t give us a lot of room to expand our workforce,” said Janet Schutte, director of communications and marketing for the local Easterseals.

Crouch lauded the nonprofit’s work and listened to songs : Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and Katy Perry’s “Firework” : sung by a choir made up of people Easterseals serves before touring the building. She stopped at the Parkview Health Greenhouse on Beacon Street before heading to South Bend to visit Potawatomi Zoo.

“I know the great work that’s being done all over Indiana and particularly in northeast Indiana,” she said. “I’m just so impressed with what’s being done.”


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