Human Services issues in HB 487, Midterm Budget Review

Governor Kasich signed the Midterm Budget Review (MBR) on June 11.  A number of human services issues got a lot of attention during the process, some good and some bad.

1.      Post Sanction Reenrollment into OWF got more difficult

RC Section 5107.05 was amended to add stricter requirements to the reenrollment requirements for Ohio Works First (OWF) recipients who have been subject to sanctions.  The changes include:

  • the situations in which a sanctioned recipient must enter into a new self-sufficiency contract to resume participation in OWF;
  • the completion of all components of the self-sufficiency contract rather than the willingness to come into full compliance; and,
  • in many cases the assistance group must also reapply for OWF in order to resume participation in OWF.

Based on legal aid experience across the state, most sanctions are triggered by a failure to meet the work requirements or other work readiness issues.  This is often due to an absence of meaningful work, and/or transportation, child care, and scheduling issues that are a fact of life for low-income people.  This appears to be another block in the wall of barriers that the state is creating to reduce its rolls in order to meet the federal work participation requirements.  OWF enrollment has dropped 24% in the twelve month period ending in May 2012.

2.     Medicaid Given Authority for Waivers      

The MBR granted authority to the Medicaid Director at ODJFS to apply for any needed additional waivers and amendments to the state Medicaid plan to implement the proposed 1115 Medicaid waiver aimed at streamlining the Medicaid eligibility process.  We support these proposals and believe that they will help more Ohioans to qualify for Medicaid more quickly.  See the announcement from the Office of Health Transformations on the 1115 waiver. 

3.     Drug testing was out, then in, then back out, but it will be back

The bill did not include any provisions requiring drug testing of applicants or recipients for public benefits programs.  An amendment was offered late in the Senate process, but that amendment was withdrawn within 24 hours in response to testimony by advocates that the Chair said raised questions that would require further consideration.

4.     Nursing Homes lost a windfall

The MBR included a provision that would have rolled over $30 million in Medicaid funds from 2012 – 2013 for increased payments to nursing facilities.  The Governor vetoed this provision, stating that, “No new data has been presented to justify those changes, demonstrate a need, or explain the rationale for this specific amount. . . The Nursing Facility Reimbursement Subcommittee of the Unified Long Term Services and Supports Advisory Work Group established in HB 153 is the appropriate venue for considering modifications to the nursing facility reimbursement formula.”

The Governor also vetoed $1.5 million for the Aging in Place Pilot Project aimed at funding home improvements to allow individuals to stay in their homes instead of moving to a nursing facility.  The veto message stated that this program “. . . duplicates existing programs, however as nearly $18 million is currently spent annually on such efforts. . . “