Oklahoma's New Portal Seeks to Help Thousands on Medicaid Waiver Waiting List (OK UCEDD/LEND)

December 27, 2016

Following the recommendation of a Blue Ribbon Panel and an Executive Order from Gov. Mary Fallin, Oklahoma officials are developing a Web portal that could speed up service delivery for thousands who may have waited years to learn whether they qualify for a medical waiver.

One of many issues addressed in April 2015 by the Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel for Developmental Disabilities was how to better serve thousands of Oklahomans seeking community services from the state Developmental Disabilities Services Division (DDSD) of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

Many residents on a wait list - that is approaching 7,500, according to one recent estimate - are seeking a Medicaid waiver, a funding mechanism that allows the state to offer community-based services to treat the developmentally disabled at home.

Medicaid waivers are sought-after because they can provide thousands of dollars in medical care coverage for services like in-home skills lessons, occupational and speech therapy, and access ramps.

But part of their funding comes from a state match to federal monies - which, the panel noted, "has continued to be a limiting factor" on approving waivers.

Oklahoma officials are aware other states have waiting lists of people seeking Medicaid waivers too. But they want to make their process quicker and more intelligent for their residents.

Last spring, panel members recommended establishing an executive council of heads of agencies providing support services to people with developmental disabilities.

The panel also called for improving online access to information and/or creating a disability information portal "to provide comprehensive information about services and resources in an easy-to-understand manner that is helpful to families who are navigating systems on their own."

Melissa D. Fenrick, a health planning coordinator at the Center for Health Innovation and Effectiveness and a member of the Blue Ribbon Panel staff, said residents can spend years on the waiver waiting list only to learn they or a family member do not qualify. In other cases, residents who have applied for the waiver just need information, a referral to a support group or something the waiver may not provide - but are unable to find those resources elsewhere.

"Waiting eight to 10 years is not a good way for people to receive information and support," Fenrick said.

The portal, described as a "first stop" by Wanda Felty, who works at the Center for Learning and Leadership at Oklahoma's University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities, aims for quicker resolutions.

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