PARSONS, Kan.—Kansans with disabilities and seniors who use Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) via Medicaid will enjoy better lives thanks to a recent decision by the 2019 Kansas Legislature and Governor Laura Kelly, said Shari Coatney, President/CEO of SKIL Resource Center.
The Legislature recently passed and the Governor signed an increase in the Protected Income Level to $1,177 per month, which allows Kansans with disabilities who receive HCBS or Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) services to keep up to this amount of their monthly income.
Previously, they were required by the state to pay a client obligation of any income over $747. This caused many to struggle with life necessities such as paying for food, medicine, transportation, making timely utility payments or otherwise providing better for themselves and their families, Coatney said.
“No one should be expected to live on $747 a month,” said Coatney. “This increase allows people who receive services through HCBS or PACE to keep more of their own money each month to pay their bills.”
“This is a great victory for people with disabilities throughout Kansas,” she said, “and will enable them to live happier and healthier lives by keeping as much as $430 per month more of their income for some individuals. Many people with disabilities and seniors struggle daily simply because of their health and environment. Easing their financial burden is a wonderful decision by the Legislature that will improve their lives and outlook. We say a huge “thank-you” to all who were involved in advocating for and passing this vital increase.”
Coatney said though Kansans with disabilities are celebrating a victory, they will have to wait for it to begin. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has decided that the individuals affected by the Protected Income Level increase will continue to be required to pay the client obligation, reducing their monthly income to $747 until September 1, 2019 while KDHE makes necessary changes to its computer systems.
Initially, KDHE was not going to have the computer system changes ready for the increase of the Protected Income Level to $l,177 until January 1, 2020; however, advocacy efforts have apparently caused the agency to re-think its position, Coatney said.
“We are relieved and appreciate that KDHE was able to move up the starting date for the increase to be implemented,” said Coatney. “Updating its computer systems is fine, but not at the expense of people with disabilities the state serves, who are already struggling because they do not have enough money to live on each month.”
Coatney and SKIL joined other disability advocates in urging KDHE to make the computer changes quickly, so the wait for implementation of the Protected Income Level increase will be shorter.
“Many people with disabilities and seniors in Kansas work hard to assure that their monthly income, as a result of disability or retirement, would be large enough to cover their monthly expenses,” said Lou Ann Kibbee, SKIL’s Systems Advocacy Manager and Board Secretary of the National Council on Independent Living based in Washington, D.C.
“Some of these individuals have been paying as much as $1,000 or more each month as their client obligation,” said Kibbee, “while not being able to use the income they have earned to pay for the necessities of life. This has not been right, and the Legislature recognized this after advocates and affected individuals spoke up. People who told their stories made a huge impact with the Legislators. This is a situation where the people’s voice truly did make a change.”
SKIL is a multi-faceted independent living resource center that serves people with all types of disabilities or those whose environment is disabling. Headquartered in Parsons, SKIL has branch offices in Chanute, Columbus, Fredonia, Independence, Pittsburg and Sedan.
In addition to operating the center for independent living, SKIL also operates an alternative lending program called K-LOAN that enables people with disabilities to purchase assistive equipment; and Assistive Technology for Kansans sites in Parsons and Wichita that provide assistive technology assessments and training, as well as other programs related to technology.
For more information, call Parsons SKIL at 1-800-688-5616 or contact any SKIL office. On the web at: www.skilonline.com