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Letter: Care program a much-needed service locally

I am writing to state my strong support for the Personal Care Assistance program that is currently in serious jeopardy under Gov. Pawlenty's proposed budget.

The PCA program is a home care service benefit under Medicaid. Eligible individuals include those with physical disabilities, chronic diseases and mental illness. PCAs assist vulnerable people with routine daily care that we who are healthy and able-bodied take for granted: bathing, dressing, meal preparation and light housekeeping. Some PCAs assist in replacing wound dressings. A medical doctor must authorize the service. Currently 520 people in Beltrami County receive Personal Care Assistance. We have contracts with 23 PCA vendors. Paid PCAs serve the most vulnerable and needy. As one of the poorest counties in the state, Beltrami County has a higher number of individuals who qualify for these services.

The legislative auditor has said that personal care services are "unacceptably vulnerable to fraud and abuse." If this is indeed the case in Beltrami County, problems should be investigated and reported to the county so that we can correct such abuses. The legislative auditor recommends "a mandatory training program for all PCA assessors," and that all PCA recipients have their services periodically supervised by a "qualified professional." I don't disagree with this need, and other recommendations of the legislative auditor, but it will cost money to implement these reforms. I fail to see how the PCA program, its many vulnerable participants and these reforms designed to address "fraud and abuse" issues will be made better by a governor who would cut support for PCA by $7.7 million in fiscal 2010, $34.3 million in fiscal 2011, and $47.7 million in fiscal 2012, and $40.7 million in fiscal 2013.

This is a program that is sorely needed by eligible people, and it is also a program in need of careful supervision. Simply cutting the funding is not the answer and is inhumane.

Jim Heltzer

Commissioner, District 3

Beltrami County