ADVOCATES FOR MEDICAID CHOICE IN CONNECTICUT by sofiaie

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									    ADVOCATES FOR MEDICAID CHOICE IN CONNECTICUT




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT:
Joe Stango, cell: (203) 982-8210 or JStango@aol.com

Proposed bill would expand Money Follows the Person,
   add skilled workers to support more home care
WATERBURY, Conn. (Feb. 14, 2008) — Medicaid reform activist Joe Stango today
proposed legislation that would expand the new home-care program he helped create and
ensure there will be enough skilled workers available to support a fundamental shift to
greater consumer choice in Connecticut’s Medicaid system.

There are four parts to Stango’s proposed bill, which state Sen. Jonathan A. Harris (D-
West Hartford), chairman of the Health Services Committee, has agreed to raise for
consideration:

   1. Increase the current cap on participants in the first phase of the new Money
      Follows the Person (MFP) program from 700 individuals to 5,000 over the next
      five years, funding the expansion with additional federal grants;

   2. Immediately launch the second phase of MFP in a 50-person pilot program to
      offer the most generous Medicaid home-care program to individuals, like
      Naugatuck resident Bob Veillette, who do not meet the first phase’s six-month-
      nursing-home-stay requirements;

   3. Create a trust fund, named “Dora’s Trust” after Stango’s mother, using the federal
      grant matching money and the millions of dollars MFP will save the state each
      year. The fund would address the need MFP will create for more nurses, certified
      nurse assistants and aides with increased training, education and incentives;

   4. Enhance financial support for the new Age and Disability Resource Center so the
      disabled, elderly and their families will have adequate one-stop access to the
      information they need to make informed choices about Medicaid.
                                             “It’s time to take the next step in Medicaid reform
                                             here in Connecticut,” Stango said. “We’ve already
                                             taken the first one, with help from Gov. M. Jodi
                                             Rell, by agreeing to create one of the best Money
                                             Follows the Person programs in the nation. But
                                             we must not lose the momentum we fought so
                                             hard to achieve. We need to continue to expand
                                             consumer choice in the state’s Medicaid system
                                             and plan ahead to make sure the necessary health
                                             care infrastructure is in place to support that.”
Joe Stango at the Let Families Choose Expo


Stango unveiled his proposals Thursday morning at the Let Families Choose Expo, a free
Medicaid reform event at the Howland-Hughes Center at 120-140 Bank Street in
Waterbury that was attended by almost 200 people.

He is proposing an expansion to the first phase of MFP to 5,000 people because there is
still $314 million in federal MFP grant money available. Last year, Connecticut received
a $24.2 million federal grant to implement the first phase of MFP for 700 people, a
program that is expected to launch in May.

The state has repeatedly indicated, and current Medicaid expenditures prove, that
allowing the elderly and disabled to receive care at home when possible will save
Connecticut millions of dollars annually. Stango is suggesting those savings be used to
make sure the state has enough trained health care workers to meet the increased demand
for home care that would come with a Medicaid system that has greater consumer choice.

“When it comes to choice-centered Medicaid, the greatest concern many have, and
rightfully so, is that our current health care infrastructure is not adequate to support such
a wholesale shift in philosophy,” Stango said. “I think the answer is obvious: This new
model can be self-supporting if we earmark its savings and put them into a trust fund for
long-term infrastructure investment. This not only eliminates the need for raising taxes,
but also eliminates a greater stress on the current budget.”

In addition to a press conference that outlined his legislative proposals, Thursday’s expo
also introduced Naugatuck resident Bob Veillette as a new partner for Stango in his
efforts to raise awareness about the shortcomings of Connecticut’s Medicaid policy.

Veillette, 63, suffered a massive brain-stem stroke in April 2006 that left him with
locked-in syndrome — a condition that leaves a person “locked inside” their body,
paralyzed below the eyes but totally cognizant of the world around them.
In October 2006, after six months in hospitals, Veillette’s family brought him home.
Given his condition, no suitable nursing home in the region would accept him, and he and
his family preferred to continue his care at home.
For the next 16 months, his family paid for all of the expenses related to his care at home.
While he was in a rehabilitiation hospital, Medicaid paid approximately $9,000 a week
for his care, and it would have continued to pay for it if he had stayed there, or it would
have paid more than $10,000 a month for him go to a nursing home. But once Veillette
went home, Medicaid payments stopped while the family applied for a special Medicaid
home-care program and was put on a waiting list.

Veillette was finally accepted into one of those programs in January 2008, but it does not
cover the cost of all of his care. The family still must pay thousands of dollars each
month in care-related expenses. His friends and family have held fundraisers to help. He
and his wife Bonnie, who is his full-time caregiver, are currently living off the money
collected through these fundraisers, his pension and Social Security.

“If Bob was 65, or if he had been in a nursing home for the past six months, he would
qualify to apply for the first phase of Money Follows the Person, which would rise to the
level of care he needs,” Stango said.

“Plans are already in place to launch a second phase that does not have these
requirements, but the Veillettes, and other families like theirs that have fallen through the
cracks of our Medicaid system, literally cannot afford to wait for it,” he said. “So I am
asking the state to accelerate its existing plans and bring relief to these families sooner
rather than later.”

Veillette and his wife attended the expo. They urged
the public to back Stango’s legislative proposals by
printing out a letter of support that’s posted on
www.BobVeillette.com and mailing it to Stango for
him to bring to the Capitol.



                                                            Bonnie Veillette speaks at the expo.


Veillette, who spells out words using a letter board and blinking to communicate, said he
decided to help Stango because there are so many state residents who aren’t as fortunate
as he has been in having the support of a wide network of friends and family.

“The few will help the many,” he said of Stango, himself and other Stango supporters.
“My position is that families should be together.”

The expo was also attended by a slate of distinguished speakers who urged the public to
join Stango in his fight to give the state’s Medicaid recipients a wider array of choices,
including:
      Noreen Shugrue, one of the researchers for the June 2007 Connecticut Long-Term
       Care Needs Assessment, the University of Connecticut Health Center study that
       concluded the state’s Medicaid program needs more home-based services;

      Julie Evans Starr, executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Aging,
       who spoke about the important ramifications of the UConn study;

      Brian Ellsworth, president and CEO of Connecticut Association for Home Care
       Inc., who spoke about the importance of having more Medicaid home-care
       options and the infrastructure to support them; and,

      Donna Palomba, founder of Jane Doe No More, an initiative to create awareness
       about the crime of sexual assault to ensure proper treatment of victims, who spoke
       about the importance of standing up and advocating for positive change when
       current legislation isn’t working.

Stango, a Southbury resident, founded Advocates for Medicaid Choice in Connecticut, a
grassroots advocacy movement trying to bring more consumer choice to Connecticut’s
Medicaid program, the government health insurance for the disabled and low-income
elderly.

His efforts began in 2005 when he tried to bring his 83-year-old mother, Dora, home
from a skilled nursing facility. He learned, however, that because his mother’s care was
paid for by Medicaid, her benefits would not follow her home. Unable to afford the cost
of caring for his mother at home, Stango was forced to leave her in the nursing facility.

That began a personal quest to bring consumer choice to Connecticut’s Medicaid policy.
Along the way, Stango has received more than 15,000 letters of support from individuals
and families who have experienced similar inflexibility in the state’s Medicaid system.
He has also received thousands of e-mails and phone calls from individuals who not only
support him, but also seek his help in keeping their loved ones home.

In 2006, Stango played a pivotal role in the passage of groundbreaking legislation that
allowed Connecticut to apply for a federal grant to participate in MFP, putting it among a
handful of states at the forefront of choice-centered Medicaid policy.

Stango’s mother passed away before MFP could be launched. When she became gravely
ill in December, Stango brought her home and she died eight days later on Dec. 17, 2007.

For more information about Advocates for Medicaid Choice in Connecticut, visit
www.letfamilieschoose.org. For more information about Veillette, visit
www.bobveillette.com.


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