CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As the state Department of Health and Human Resources prepares a report for Gov. Jim Justice on the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) Waiver program, there is a $300 million surplus in the state’s Medicaid budget.

Jeremiah Samples

State DHHR Assistant Deputy Secretary Jeremiah Samples recently told state lawmakers the state has realized a lot of savings in Medicaid since it changed the requirements for the IDD program in 2015 during the administration of former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. He said before that review, IDD Waiver was overspending its annual allotted budget by $200 million and funds had to come from other areas of the Medicaid budget to cover it.

Samples said the goal at the time was to cut spending so the waitlist for the program could be eliminated.

“Secretary Bowling (former DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling) in the previous administration–basically we were tasked to bring that budget under control for the long-term purpose for reducing or eliminating the waitlist,” Samples said.

But the numbers on the list have stayed steady in the last few years with about 1,000 residents having been medically approved to be part of the program if funding is available. Samples said the report for Gov. Justice will include a breakdown of historical expenditure trends in the program.

“The average spend in 2015 was roughly $79,000 per member and in the fiscal year 2018 it was roughly $65,000,” Samples said.

There have been 272 slots added to IDD since Gov. Justice took office. Samples said adding another 1,000 would cost the state roughly $19 million in base budget building. The federal government would match the allocation 3 to 1. Samples said the state would have to prove to the federal government it has the money to add more slots.

“In essence when we submit an amendment to our current waiver to the federal government we must attest that we have the funding to match the amount indicated to cover the number of slots that we’d be requesting to open up,” Samples said.

He said it could take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to get approval from the federal government to eliminate the waitlist.

The DHHR’s report is due to Justice by Jan. 15.

Samples said two other DHHR waiver programs currently have no waitlists.

“Both the Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver and the Age and Disabled Waiver have no waitlist. We actually cleared those waitlists this month,” Samples said.

Justice ordered the review on Dec. 13 to determine options for eliminating the waitlist for the program.

The IDD waiver program gives people the choice of receiving support and services at home rather than in an institutional setting. Justice said too many people have been waiting for the program for too long.

“Some of West Virginia’s most vulnerable men, women, and children have been on the waitlist for more than four years,” Justice said. “We absolutely must find a way to eliminate the waitlist so that these West Virginians can get the help and support they deserve.”