After a flurry of court hearings taking aim at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the agency must now rewrite some of their rules on how disability funding is allocated. A workshop held today on the iBudget is just one small step in a much longer narrative.
Back in 2011, The APD’s iBudget was just getting its start as a new method to divvy up funds for the state’s Medicaid Waiver program. That program funds helpful services for disabled Floridians.
But then came objections from people like Jim Freyvogel, who runs the MacDonald Training Center in Tampa. He didn’t like the way the APD was determining who got funding.
“As conceived, the individual concept is a really a noble attempt to efficiently and effectively fund service needs for individuals, but, if implemented, is really nothing more than a methodology employed by the APD to ration services for the sole purpose of backing into its legislative appropriation,” Freyvogel told WFSU last year.
Last September, in the final of three lawsuits calling the APD’s formula into question, a state appeals court ruled the ADP could not allocate less than what their algorithm allowed.
APD is holding workshops with the public to decide how it will alter the iBudget program in keeping with the court’s decision. Suzanne Sewell, president of the Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, was one of many people who voiced their opinions.
“The point I want to make is that people are not algorithms,” Sewell said, “and we feel very strongly that the review process needs to be added back in.”
Denise Arnold, Deputy Director of Programs for the APD, led the meeting.
“This is not the first hearing we’ve done,” Arnold said. “We’ve got some good feedback and good participation from stakeholders, with specific content they’d like to see in the rule, and we’ve made most of those changes every time we meet.”
Arnold says this isn’t the last meeting, but they are winding down a bit. She sees the process as a way to make lemonade out of the court’s lemons, and use it as a chance to refine the program.
“I think what we’re hoping to accomplish with this meeting is to try and get some stability and final decisions on how the program will operate, so that people who get the service are clear on how it operates,” Arnold said.
As the agency revises its funding process, state lawmakers are upping their financial contributions by adding more money to the program. There are about 20,000 disabled Floridians on a waiting list for services the APD funds.