Clients Say Medicaid System is Failing Them

Reporter: Shannon Samson

The Medicaid waiver program pays for low income individuals to have therapy and other services for mental illnesses and developmental disabilities.

Cuts in the program have been going on for the last few years with more on the way November 1.

Some clients say they're not sure how much more they can take. Phyllis Warner's 14-year-old son is mildly retarded and undergoes case management, social services and respite care paid for by the Medicaid waiver program.

Five years ago, he would get ten hours of behavior therapy a month. Soon, those hours will be cut in half. Without adequate therapy, his mom says the effects can be severe. "He has behavioral issues as far as people saying the wrong things to him in the wrong tone of voice and he goes off and hits and throws things."

Indiana Family and Social Services Agency secretary Mitch Roob says he inherited a $120 million deficit when he took over the Medicaid waiver program, so a 15 percent increase in funding from the governor wasn't enough to pull it out of the red and offset an annual growth rate of 10 percent.

So, he says he's had to make some deep cuts to save the program. "The least compassionate thing we can do is allow our system that funds the health care, in Medicaid alone for over 800,000 Hoosiers, to go bankrupt. Then we'll have to do.... I won't. I'll get fired, but someone else will come in this job and say 'I'm sorry, but we have to make really Draconian cuts and you used to get medicaid, you don't anymore. You used to get medicaid, you don't anymore.' And then what happens to those folks?"

Phyllis' son's case manager says she and her colleagues have already saved money by trimming some of the fat in their departments. Case manager Shonna Cofer says, "Just by eliminating extra things that were not necessary and I believe that if they were to give us a little more time some more of those budgets could have been cut."

Phyllis says there's only one solution. "The man needs to get off his butt and find the money."

Roob says the money is nowhere to be found considering the average Hoosier makes 91 cents for every dollar the average American makes. He says this state must increase the number of good-paying jobs here to increase the tax base because we simply cannot pay for Medicaid the way it stands now. He's really calling for a complete overhaul of the system. So I have a feeling this isn't the last we'll hear of Medicaid cuts.