Lawmakers OK managed care plan for disabled

Posted June 9, 2011 6:56 p.m. EDT
Updated June 9, 2011 7:19 p.m. EDT

N.C. Department of Health and Human Services

— Lawmakers on Thursday signed off on a controversial shift toward managed care that could affect thousands of families statewide who receive services for mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse.

The change, which would expand a pilot program statewide, would mean that more than 16,000 people would lose their independent case managers.

"The direction in which you're moving is a dangerous one, one that will have long-lasting impacts and effects that devastate those at your mercy," Sean Webb, who cares for his brother, told lawmakers during a committee hearing.

"It's going to be harmful," said Terry Miller, who cares for her 30-year-old daughter. "You don't know until you've walked in my shoes what it means to be a parent of a child with a disability in North Carolina."

Several lawmakers said they understand, to an extent, people's concerns.

"I can tell you firsthand, my wife and I know what it's like taking turns sleeping at night. We know what it's like to work through some of the system issues. It's not pleasant," said Rep. Jeff Barnhart, R-Cabarrus.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Lanier Cansler said the managed care pilot program, which has been operating in the Piedmont area for six years, has proven there is incentive to provide the care people need.

"If they don't, they have to pay for that institutional care or emergency department care, et cetera, so they want to make sure they accomplish goals to help people have better lives to stay well," Cansler said.

The pilot program went through "rocky times" initially, he said, but eventually it was able to reduce costs and open care up to more people, including many who have been on waiting lists.

If Gov. Beverly Perdue signs the legislation into law, Cansler said, the plan is to have the program statewide by the end of 2013.

Many families expressed apprehension about the pending change.

"The devil's always in the details, and in those details, families are never asked to be a part of that," said Paula Cox Fishman, who has a mentally handicapped sister.