Does the state budget go far enough for those waiting for Medicaid waivers?

More than 7,300 Georgia families remain on a waitlist for care for developmentally disabled adults.

Many of them have been waiting for years for what are called Medicaid waivers.

Christopher Hackstadt celebrated his 18th birthday this year. His mother can’t help but worry about an upcoming birthday.

“I’m afraid of what’s going to happen when he turns 22,” Priscilla Hackstadt told Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray.

Christopher has a genetic form of severe autism. He’s non-verbal and needs help with everything from getting dressed to going to the bathroom.

Right now, he’s in a transitional program at his school that ends when he turns 22.

“His world will shrink, and mine will too. I don’t see being able to continue working if he’s at home full time,” Hackstadt said.

In 2015, when Christopher was in elementary school his family applied for a Medicaid waiver.

Knowing about the backlog, they wanted Christopher approved as soon as possible for the waivers, that provide care for developmentally disabled adults.


The problem is there is a more than 7,300-person wait list in Georgia for those waivers.

Claire Dees heads the Spectrum Autism Support Group.

“Where do you go? What do you do if you have aging parents, ill parents, parents that might die before you?” Dees said.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget only funds 100 new Medicaid waiver slots -- significantly less than last year’s budget that added 500 new slots.

What the governor’s budget does do is provide $79 million to increase the pay for those providing services.

Right now, they are only getting about $10 an hour. The new funds would increase that to $16 an hour.

Democratic state Sen. Sally Harrell told Gray that low pay has made it difficult for providers to hire and retain staff.

She said before the state can bring down the waitlist, they have to get more providers.

“I’m OK with it going down a little bit this year, because we do have the $79 million to address wages, and we need to give the businesses an opportunity to recruit more workers and get more services available. Before we move up on the services again,” Harrell said.

This year, Harrell’s bipartisan bill cosponsored with Republican Sen. John Albers, Senate Bill 198 would create a state innovation commission to spend five years addressing how the state cares for a growing population unable to care for themselves.

For Priscilla Hackstadt it comes down to who will take care of her son when she can’t.

“If I could be immortal, I would. I would choose to be immortal so that I could take care of my son and always have that peace of mind that he’s going to be taken care of,” she said.

Senate Bill 198 is scheduled to be voted on in the Senate on Thursday -- Crossover Day.