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Wisconsin: Update on Wisconsin’s Overhaul of Its Medicaid Program, IRIS, and Supported Employment Program

March 30, 2016

Following several months of public forums (See October 2015’s Employment, Health, and Disability Update for some of the LEAD Center’s earlier coverage on Wisconsin), Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services has decided to replace its eight regional Medicaid-funded managed-care organizations (MCOs) with three integrated health agencies (IHAs) in each region. The IHAs will offer supportive services, such as supported employment, as well as medical care. They will also offer an option to beneficiaries similar to Wisconsin’s alternative health benefit system, IRIS (Include, Respect, I-Self-direct). 

The changes are expected to keep disability-related Medicaid spending in check. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, funding for long-term services and supports cost $3.4 billion this year. In its concept paper about the planned changes, the Department said that the reforms will slow the growth of expenditures by improving overall health rather than cutting eligibility or coverage. 

Both vocational rehabilitation and supported employment are services covered by the final plan discussed in the concept paper, and rely on relationships with providers that may change when the administrative framework is reorganized. 

Wisconsin’s health department must send a final version of the concept paper to the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee by April 1, but hearings are still ongoing, to which advocates can contribute. For more information, read the Wisconsin State Journal article