Missouri Lawmaker Demands Explanation For Stalled Program

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri lawmaker is demanding to know why a program that would pay parents of disabled children to care for them at home hasn't yet started.

Sen. Brian Williams, a University City Democrat, wrote to Budget Director Dan Haug on Thursday, saying he has “yet to receive a clear answer" for the delay, The Kansas City Star reports.

The initiative, which has won approval from lawmakers, is designed to help families of Missouri children with severe disabilities or conditions that qualify them for nursing services at home, paid for by the state’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet.

Even before the pandemic exacerbated a nationwide nursing shortage, the care was hard to find.

Nine families have sued Missouri in federal court over the lack of services. Their attorney said those families get from 85% of their nursing hours staffed to none.

An Arizona-based home health care company, Team Select Home Care, has been lobbying the state on an alternative solution, a pilot program in MO HealthNet that would allow the agency to hire parents as home health aides for their children.

It would free up nurses for more skilled tasks, keep parents at home with their children and avoid putting them in the hospital at a higher cost to the state, advocates say.

Lawmakers put money for a 100-family pilot program into the budget last year, but Team Select’s CEO said state Medicaid officials told the company the program could not start because federal rules require parents to be qualified as nurses in order for their work to be covered by Medicaid.

So lawmakers tried again, this year writing in the budget a $3 million initiative, classifying the services as “home health care” and restricting participation to a St. Louis County agency.

The changes were made “per the request of MO HealthNet,” Williams wrote Thursday.

The program approved this year would use last year’s COVID-19 relief funds and be limited to 50 families whose children are either already hospitalized or at risk of being sent back to the hospital because of the lack of home nurses.

It still hasn’t started. Last month, Department of Social Services spokeswomen ignored multiple inquiries about the program.

Williams wrote that he wanted a “a detailed explanation for the program’s delay and the administration’s plans for its implementation.”