Crouch calls for FSSA audit; criticizes Holcomb and GOP leaders

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch calls for an audit of the Family Social Services Administration. (Credit: Jarred Meeks)

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch calls for an audit of the Family Social Services Administration. (Credit: Jarred Meeks)

Feb 06, 2024

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch is calling for an audit of the Family Social Services Administration two months after the agency acknowledged an unexpected nearly $1 billion cost jump in Medicaid expenses

In doing so, Crouch was highly critical of Gov. Eric Holcomb, House Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray after complicated legislation that included proposals addressing proposed cuts to Medicaid’s Attendant Care program died Feb. 1.

“I’m going to call for an independent audit of the FSSA,” Crouch told Howey Politics/State Affairs on Monday ahead of a Tuesday news conference she called on the issue. “If they could make a billion dollar mistake that we know about, what else do we not know about … yet? People just don’t know about it.” 

The Family Social Services Administration’s Attendant Care program is complex. It currently compensates parents and guardians who provide attendant care to their disabled children. There is a shortage of trained professionals to help these families cope with often daunting disabilities. Crouch told Howey Politics she doesn’t know how many Hoosier families will be impacted by the proposed cuts to the program that would go into effect July 1. Crouch said that she, the task force and affected families are seeking a “pause” in the new program rollout so questions can be answered.

Crouch said she and other critics asked the Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Task Force at a recent meeting how many families would be impacted by the changes. “We never got an answer,” she said. “I’ve heard numbers of 11,000, but I didn’t hear that from FSSA, I heard that from the parents that I met with in Warsaw.”

“These people don’t have a voice,” Crouch said. “They’ve been bringing their children to the Statehouse to have rallies. But the challenge is a lot of them can’t bring their children because they have highly complex medical conditions. They have tracheostomies, they have feeding tubes. They have epileptic seizures multiple times a day. To get them to the Statehouse is a challenge for those parents. It’s hard for them to engage in the issue. 

“We’re racing against the clock,” Crouch said. “If the Legislature doesn’t do anything and the governor doesn’t do anything, nothing is going to happen.

“It appears that the leadership just refused to call down the bill to avoid a discussion of these issues pertaining to these parents being compensated for taking care of their children,” the lieutenant governor said. “They just didn’t want a discussion. It’s like they are trying to put a lid on things. They just don’t want attention.”

Huston said Tuesday he thought it was premature for the Legislature to intervene.

“FSSA has put out proposed rules — they’re still open; they’re still taking feedback. So it would strike me that we should let that process take place, where people can give feedback,” Huston said. “I think we’ll let the situation play out, and I understand people are wanting to opine on it, and they should.”

Crouch said in a statement last week, “I’m deeply disappointed with FSSA, but it is hard to be angry when your heart aches for the families and caregivers of the precious children they are attending to. It truly is heartbreaking. Since the meeting Monday, more and more families are contacting my office asking what can be done to reverse, or at least pause, these cuts.”

As for Holcomb, Crouch issued a rare rebuke. “He’s the governor, and he’s performing his duties and I’m performing my duties as chair of the task force of the IDD Task Force,” she said. “It is my duty to speak out on behalf of the people who don’t have voices. And they don’t have high-paid lobbyists. They have only people like me and the other members of the task force to speak out and draw attention to this issue.”

Asked who at Family Social Services should be held responsible? Crouch responded, “I think that’s up to the governor to decide.”

Crouch drew a historical parallel to another troubled FSSA episode from the Daniels administration. “I see this issue very much like the IBM issue. The governor ignores the issue until the media becomes engaged, until he can no longer ignore it. I see this as the very same issue.”

That was in reference to 2009 when Gov. Mitch Daniels pulled the plug on a $1.34 billion welfare privatization deal with IBM. Then-state Rep. Crouch and other southwestern and northeastern legislators began fielding complaints that people without computer skills seeking services like food stamps were falling through the cracks, sometimes with lethal repercussions.

Crouch said that once media coverage on the issue began, Daniels opted for a new hybrid approach, much of which still exists today. In a text to State Affairs after her news conference Tuesday, Crouch said, “Gov. Daniels had the political courage to acknowledge the problem and come up with a hybrid model that better served Hoosiers.” 

Asked in October 2009 about the IBM contract, Daniels told Howey Politics, “The easiest thing to do in a situation like this is throw your hands up and say, ‘Well, that’s as good as it can be.’ This has been a daunting thing all along, and it still is, of course. Our first attempt didn’t get us there, but we did get some positives out of it. We’ll just have to take them and reverse some of the mistakes and move forward.”

Crouch said that in this situation she told constituents with questions and concerns to “contact the governor.”

“I have been given just normal speeches and in them I have spoken about this issue. In every instance my message has been the same. People need to be engaged and need to contact the governor’s office because the governor made this happen. And also they need to engage with legislators because if the governor does not do anything to address this situation, then the Legislature can do it. But barring that, nothing happens. I can’t make it happen.

Asked if she had spoken to the governor about the issue, Crouch said, “No.”

On Monday, Crouch tweeted on X: “The FSSA’s proposed cuts to the Attendant Care program are deeply troubling. It’s clear action is needed. Hoosiers, your voice matters! Reach out to your legislators and demand a pause on these cuts!”

FSSA’s Attendant Care program was created in 2017, Crouch said, and then with the COVID-19 pandemic, usage amped up, contributing to a nearly $1 billion forecasting error.

Crouch also addressed the speculation of program abuse. “If there are abuses in the system, let’s get them addressed,” she said. “When I asked if there were abuses at the IDD Task Force, they really couldn’t speak to it with any great thoroughness.” 

Brian Howey is senior writer and columnist for Howey Politics Indiana/State Affairs. Find Howey on Facebook and X @hwypol.

Senior Reporter Tom Davies contributed to this story.

Read more on the FSSA:

Crouch, lawmakers call for FSSA to pause its plan to make up for nearly $1B forecasting error

Family and Social Services proposes ending attendant care payments to parents, spouses to cover nearly $1B shortfall