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Delay the STAR+PLUS Roll-Out in the Rio Grande Valley

Written on:January 28, 2012
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A new program called STAR+PLUS that will privatize Medicaid services in the Valley is scheduled to launch on March 1st, 2012. The STAR+PLUS program creates a privately operated managed care system to provide health care and home health services to elderly and disabled Texans. STAR+PLUS is intended to replace state-operated services of the long term services and supports (LTSS) and community based alternatives (CBA) programs. These programs, generally known as Community Care for the Aged and Disabled (CCAD or A&D) help clients avoid nursing home placements and allow them to stay in their homes by providing numerous in-home services. Under CCAD, state employees determine eligibility and do on-going casework to coordinate services to individuals. Most of the services are provided by private sector providers. The Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) has about 422 CCAD employees in the ten-county Hidalgo Star service area. Under current plans, more than 75% of these positions would be eliminated in a conversion to a privatized managed care system.

In 2003, Valley legislators won a provision in HB 2292 that exempted the Valley from privatization of Medicaid programs. At the time, those legislators noted that the Valley area has demographic characteristics that make it unusually vulnerable to disruptions that could result from conversion to privatized services. The provision was repealed in 2011 over the objections of Valley legislators.

Allowing the STAR+PLUS privatization to roll-out in the Valley is completely irresponsible. Not only will over 300 state employees in the Valley lose their jobs, but untold damage will be done to the quality of services provided to the area’s most vulnerable citizens. The highly trained, professional state employees will be replaced by lower paid, less accountable private workers. The contractors who provide managed care through the STAR+PLUS system will attempt to maximize profits by lowering the quality of services. There will be less oversight in the system and this will result in more of the area’s citizens staying at risk while more tax payer dollars are wasted on corporate profits.

The reason the Valley was granted an exemption from Medicaid privatization for 8 years is because the Valley is different from other parts of the state. First, the counties along the Rio Grande River are among the poorest in the state and in the country and higher proportions of Valley residents are vulnerable. Disruptions or reductions of services in the area could have a disproportionate impact on Valley communities. Secondly, the Valley has a high proportion of residents who prefer or speak only in Spanish. It is crucial that employees who work with Valley residents not only be competent in Spanish, but that they understand the culture of the area. Workers must be well-trained, dedicated to quality services, willing to go the extra mile and able to to communicate with Valley residents. This is not work for low-paid, poorly trained employees.

Human service privatization experiments in Texas and around the country have nearly all been wasteful failures. The first STAR contractor in the state of Texas, Evercare, got its state contract in 2007. The corporation left a trail of poor service and unfulfilled commitments that was so bad that the contract was cancelled in 2009. Lets not allow the Valley to become the testing ground for another privatization scheme that lines corporate profits at the expense of some of Texas’ most vulnerable citizens. Texans should oppose the STAR-PLUS roll-out in the Valley by contacting their elected officials today.

Click on the following link to participate in the action:
Delay the STAR+PLUS Roll-Out in the Rio Grande Valley

Texas State Employees Union/ CWA Local 6186

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