The Minnesota waiver system is complicated, inconsistent, and cumbersome for families to access and navigate. Still, our state does it better than most. If you're beginning this journey, here are some helpful FYI's and resources. And some other tips based on our experience!
Minnesotans with disabilities or chronic illnesses who need certain levels of care may qualify for the state's home and community-based waiver programs.
Thus, if you are a parent and are wondering how the heck to access this system please know....
In Minnesota in order to be eligible for a waiver, you have to qualify for Medical Assistance. This all depends on your income. You may have to pay a parental fee if your income is too high, otherwise known as TEFRA. You can apply through the MNSure process online here: MNSure Link.
Contact your county's social worker to let them know you've started the process. They should also help you determine if you qualify for straight MA of TEFRA.
You also need to have your child determined as someone with a disability through the state medical review team.
Here are some: TEFRA FAQ's
When contacting your county's social worker, request a MNChoice Assessment. The outcome of this assessment will determine what, if any, waiver you qualify for. It is FREE, occurs in your home, and should take place within 20 days of your request.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE DETAILED IN DESCRIBING THE NEEDS OF YOUR CHILD. I can't emphasize this enough.
Although the MNCHoice Assessment is standardized, meaning the same questions for every child, the responses you give will ultimately impact their "score." Be truthful, but be thorough. It's easy to overlook something because you do it every day. Be sure to think about everything you do for your child when answering questions. The assessment is essentially looking at the amount of support your child needs for his/her Activities of Daily Living (ADL's) compared to a same age peer. This is one reason why the current system, in my opinion, is not sufficient. It can be challenging to get infants to qualify for support because typical babies are 100% dependent on adults for all things. Thus, there is not a huge discrepancy in babies with brain injuries and neurotypical ones. Nevertheless, this is the current way eligibility is determined.
After they leave, they will summarize the results. They will get back to you with what type, if any, services you qualify for. They have 40 days to provide a written plan of options based on the assessment results.
Here is the link to the handout re: MnChoiceAssessment from DHS
Here is the general link about MNChoice from DHS' site: DHS MNChoice
There are several waivers that your child may qualify for. Please know each one is different, so you want to ensure you have all the information before deciding. You may qualify for two more more, so knowing which one is most appropriate for you is important. The budgets are often different. These are the 3 types you will most likely be eligible for:
It's also important to know that many counties require a private duty nursing assessment (PDN) to be eligible for this waiver. Please see next section for more information.
The implementation of the state waiver programs varies greatly depending on where you live. This should NOT be the case, but its the reality right now. There is lots of misinformation out there, sometimes by well-intentioned county workers that are the ones there to help you. Be weary if you hear...
If you qualify for a waiver, the vast majority of people choose the Consumer Directed Community Supports (CDCS). This allows you, the parent, to determine how your budget is spent. In doing so, you will work with your county social worker to develop a support plan. The services and supports you opt to include in your budget must support these goals.
You will also need to hire a support planner- your county worker can refer you to someone. The support planner will work with you and your county social worker to allocate your budget to supports and services your child needs most. YOU decide how they are spent. Once your budget plan is written, you submit it to your county social worker for approval. He/she will review it and determine which things are approved, pended, or denied.
One great thing about the CAC waiver under CDCS is you can opt to hire staff or even pay yourself. The state of Minnesota recognizes that parents like us often have to give up their jobs to take care of their child. That's exactly what happened to me. Finding staff is a huge challenge, too. Often times, families can't. So they have to stay home and be the caretaker. The "paid parent" option allows you to recoup some of the loss of income.
It's also important to know your plan isn't written in stone. It's flexible, and you can revise as you need to. For example, if insurance denies a piece of equipment your child needs, you may be able to use your waiver to pay for it. Typically the county requires a copy of the denial letter. Please know any time you make a revision request they have 30 days to review and respond. If they deny your request, you always have the option to appeal. In our experience, your county worker will work with you to determine the necessary documentation to get the support or service approved.
Of course there are limitations to what you can include in your budget. Please see the Washginton County Expenditure Guide for an example of what our county allows.
Here is the link to the CDCS information on DHS' site.
Once your budget is approved you will need to find a Fiscal Management Service (FMS). They will function as your "human resource department" and finance manager. If you opt to pay yourself or hire staff they will ensure you've completed all the necessary steps and paperwork, and will function as the place who's "hired" you/staff. They are responsible for reimbursing you for any approved purchase you pay for out of pocket. You will be responsible for filling out timesheets , expense forms, and adhereing to their policies. They will also oversee your budget and ensure it is accurate and updated as waiver dollars are spent.
It is important to know they will charge a certain percentage of your overall waiver budget for their service. Each place will have their own rates, so be sure you "shop" around. They will make your life easier.