Session Update. Since this story was published, a bill to fund a substantial reduction in the waitlist (SB 1758) and the Live Healthy bill (SB 7016) that includes a 10 percent across the board raise to all Home and Community Based Services providers have both passed the senate. SB 7016’s house companion bill (HB 1549) is slated to be voted on in the house chamber February 21. SB 1758's house companion (HB 1271) will be discussed in committee February 22. Self-advocates are urged to contact their house representatives today and urge them to support HBs 1549 & 1271.
As self-advocates it is important to understand the issues that affect us so that we can protect the services which allow us to live independently in our homes and the community. The 2024 Florida State Legislative Session, January 9 – March 8, is when lawmakers meet to pass laws that affect the lives of Floridians.
Some of these laws affect the services that individuals with disabilities receive in their homes and communities. The iBudget is a Home-Based and Community-Based Services (HBCS) waiver that allows clients of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) to decide their services. There are important legislative priorities advanced by several state-wide disability-related agencies that were crafted to help strengthen the iBudget. They are no wait list for iBudget services, employment of well-trained support staff, and including the waiver in the social services estimating conference.
This article will help you better understand these priorities and how you can advocate for them and other bills that will improve the lives of people with disabilities.
No one waits for services from the iBudget
According to Disability Rights Florida, as of November 2023, 21,500 Floridians with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) currently sit on a waitlist for the services needed to live safely in the community. Many spend years waiting. In an attempt to find a solution, 610 people on the waitlist in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties will participate in a pilot program that combines providing services via the Long-Term Care Waiver and the iBudget Waiver in a manage care environment. The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council (FDDC) will watch the program to assess as to whether recipients are receiving quality services, authentic person-centered care, and that is produces measurable results.
It has also been proposed by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) to change the terminology “waiting list” to “pre-enrollment.” This name change does not solve the problem of people waiting to receive services.
Advocates can also address the waitlist by continuing to ask for legislators to increase funding to be allocated towards reducing the iBudget waitlist.
Update: SB 1758 passed on Developmental Disabilities Awareness Day. The Senate published a press release highlighting its passage. A summary of this bill can be found here. HB 1271 is the identical House bill and will be discussed in the House Health and Human Services Committee February 22. Self-advocates are urged to contact their house representatives today and urge them to support HB 1271.
Employment of well-trained support coordination staff
Waiver Support Coordinators who serve the I/DD population should be trained with techniques found useful by case management experts for individuals with I/DD. Person-centered service plans should also be encouraged. Coordinators should also receive increased pay, have easier reporting systems, and less oppressive regulations. For more about the employment of well-trained support coordination staff visit the FL-SAND Legislative Priorities page.
Update: Pending Governor DeSantis's signature, all HCBS providers will be receiving a 10% provider rate increase with the passage of SB 7016 and HB 1549. Please thank your legislators who voted for these bills and contact the governor urging him to sign this legislation into law.
Include the iBudget waiver in the Social Services Estimating Conference (SSEC)
The SSEC forecasts the budget required for some Medicaid programs for the coming year. Including the iBudget in these forecasts will result in more accurate funding for services. The iBudget should be a part of the SSEC because of increasing crisis cases, aging caregivers, aging waiver recipients, and more individuals graduating from high school. For more information on this priority visit the FDDC legislative platform page.
Advocacy During the Legislative Session
Your response as a self-advocate is important. These are some tips for effective advocacy for these priorities or any legislative priority important to you:
Make an appointment to speak with your legislators or their staff (everyone has one state senator and one representative in the legislature). This can be done virtually or by phone. Be prepared to share your story about the waitlist or the importance of the iBudget services in maintaining your ability to live in the community. Once you make the appointment, be on time. You can find your legislators here.
Be ready to respond to calls to action from disability agencies in emails or on social media. Agencies may ask you to email or call legislators when an important vote is coming up.
Once important bills have passed both the house and senate chambers, contact the governor's office and urge him to sign them into law.
Follow these and other priorities throughout the session. Below is a partial list of how you may do so.
2. Sign up for emails at disability organizations in order to receive their legislative updates:
Florida Developmental Disabilities Council FDDC.org
Disability Rights Florida disabilityrightsflorida.org
The Arc of Florida arcflorida.org
The Family Cafe familycafe.net
Florida Self-Advocacy Central FSACentral.org
4. Follow bill progress and committee meeting schedules on these sites:
Florida Senate: www.flsenate.gov
Florida House of Representatives www.myfloridahouse.gov
Advocacy on the legislative level is vital so people who are on the iBudget waiver can continue to receive HCBS services. Follow the related priorities and contact your legislators today!