IRIS is a long-term care program that provides daily support to the elderly and people with disabilities, but its future is uncertain.
Julie Burish of Brookfield is a member of the grassroots coalition Save IRIS. She said participants in the program and their family get to choose who comes into their lives. “You know, people with disabilities … our kids all have cognitive disabilities so they’re at high risk of being abused. You know, we hire the people that we feel are qualified, that we know are gonna be there, that are gonna keep them safe.”
Advocates want IRIS to continue to exist as a separate Medicaid waiver program. The Joint Finance Committee last week rejected Governor Walker’s proposed changes to long-term care programs, but members of Save IRIS want a guarantee that participants will maintain self-direction, rather than having for-profit insurers control a statewide system.
Marion Holmberg is from Waukesha; she’s with Save IRIS. “The language in the proposal leaves it wide open for an HMO or managed care organization to manage the self-direction part. By definition that undermines the concept of self-direction.”
AUDIO: (:69) Mary Beth has a 22-year-old daughter with downs syndrome. She said her daughter is not sick, she just needs support. IRIS does that.
Members of Save IRIS delivered a petition with approximately 6,000 signatures to legislators on Tuesday, urging preservation of the program.
The state spends some $2 billion annually on the Family Care and IRIS Medicaid programs. IRIS participants (nearly 12,000) rely on the program to select and hire personal care workers to help with bathing, dressing, and accessing meals. Those using the program get an allocated budget so they have incentive to set their own priorities.
Burish said IRIS is a valuable, cost-effective program giving people greater control over their lives in their own homes.