Extending the LISS Lifeline

After the debacle that was the LISS funding process this year, the state of Maryland conducted a survey to talk about how the program could be improved (shy of, say, giving LISS more money).

For those readers who don’t remember – LISS, or Low Intensity Support Services, is the program that gives funding to individuals coping with disabilities to cover things that are not covered by insurance.  For us, this can include the Monster’s summer camp, or his adaptive gymnastics at Rebounders, or music therapy, or the like.

In Maryland, eligible individuals are able to request up to $3000 towards these items.  The state, however, doesn’t fund LISS to the level that would allow for everyone to partake, and it’s always a rush to get the forms in as quickly as possible so as to get some money.

This fiscal year, we missed out.  (See Paying for Autism.)  For all intents and purposes, if you did not have your forms in on the first day of the period (July 1st), you didn’t any money.  Because of this, the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council put out a survey, asking for input as to how the system could be reformed.  The survey results came out about a month ago… and I have to say that I like a lot of their recommendations.

The biggest issues to me are the rush to get the forms in and the need to have real invoices, which is often the hold-up.  (For instance, a lot of camps do not want to ‘invoice’ for the next summer of camp, when the prices might change.)  One of the suggestions to deal with this was a suggestion to impose a lottery system (all applications submitted within a given period would be drawn lottery-style until the money was used up) and that estimates should be acceptable, since payment goes directly to the service vendor anyway.  This would, at least, also end what happened this year, with families camped out on the doorsteps of the five providers at 6 AM on July 1st to get the forms in PDQ.

A lot of the other recommendations were very common-sense:

  • Divide the eligibility year into two periods, with some money held back for January distribution.  Folks who receive LISS in July would not be eligible for the January drawing. This would increase availability of the pool of money, plus would allow for any surplus in the pool to be distributed.
  • Reduce the LISS amount to $2000, which in their estimation is “enough to cover summer camp”.  (It seems that was the most prevalent request.)  This would also allow more families to get LISS.
  • Set aside funding specifically for first-time applicants.
  • Remove individuals receiving assistance through other DDA or most Medicaid waivers from eligibility.  Because, honestly, it’s not fair to those of us who can only apply for LISS to have those folks double-dipping.

The real issue, in the end, is that the funding behind LISS is woefully insufficient given the number of families that are suddenly applying for it.  At the rate things are going, we’re going to end up seeing more drastic solutions – either parents are going to start figuring out how to better game the system (longer lines on that first morning, plus more pressure on our providers to give invoices sooner so we can apply) or they’re going to start coming up with other limitations (means-testing or the like) to keep the system afloat.  The fact is that the recommendations in the survey are fair, balanced, and the best solution – short of adding more money to the pot – to keep LISS as a useful program for years to come.

The report itself can be found here and makes for interesting reading.  Hopefully, some of their recommendations are going to be implemented.

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