We have not published the DDAdvocates Newsletter consistently over the past year due to family health issues and other life events. The sabbatical is beginning to wind down just as the election season is warming up.
The topic of this communication is an update on national and state issues which have the potential to impact our children, family members and clients. The theme is that regardless of which political party wins the upcoming elections, we need to be in touch with our office holders at all levels and reacquaint them with the needs of the disabled and mentally ill which they conveniently overlook in their discussions of grand design.
- Mr. Romney has stated to the audience at a $50,000 a plate dinner that what’s wrong with America is that 47% of the population is overly dependent on the Federal Government. There is no acknowledgment in this presentation that significant numbers of the recipients of services are persons with disability, mental illness and other conditions striving to live meaningful lives who might merit exclusion from his derision.
- Mr. Ryan meanwhile is the author of the budget proposal that would cap Medicaid at current funding levels and allow states to administer it however they wish. Again there is no recognition of the reality that persons with developmental disabilities are in fact totally and permanently disabled and will require assistance for life, or that freezing benefits in the face of escalating medical costs constitutes a benefit reduction to those least able to cope with it. In effect he proposes to destroy the current safety net which his running mate claims absolves the government from any further assistance to the poor, the disabled and the disenfranchised
- Meanwhile, the Obama administration requests proposals from 15 states on how to combine Medicare and Medicaid benefits without any guidelines on how the hard won and effective benefits, waivers and other programs related to persons with developmental disabilities are to be protected. In fairness, however, President Obama is the only politician whom I have heard point out that Medicaid is the cornerstone of benefits for the disabled and needs to be protected.
- The Granholm administration volunteered the State to submit (In return for over $1million of federal money) a plan for merging administration and funding of benefits for persons receiving both Medicare and Medicaid. Following the mantra of one size fits all, there was no distinguishment made in the provision of benefits for the developmentally disabled versus other groups such as children and seniors in poverty, the mentally ill, those in long term nursing and medical facilities and so on. In addition the State proposed to make all payments through the Medicaid system which is unable to do the job it has today.
- The Snyder administration didn’t skip a heartbeat in developing and submitting a plan which will basically remove the administration of benefits for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill from local Community Mental Health Agencies and hand this administration over to a privatized state-wide third party for administration under a medical rather than a person centered model—in other words fee for service versus person centered and self determination budgets.
- Furthermore this administration ignored the concerns of persons with developmental disabilities and mental illness and included these populations in their proposal. Most of the other submitting states excluded persons with developmental disabilities from their proposals apparently understanding that benefits for our citizens require a more person centered and less harmonized administration (and segregation of funds) than the other populations.
What to do?
- VOTE – understand what is at stake and VOTE
- Then start talking to the winners
- Tell them that you expect that they will walk across the aisle and work out bi-partisan agreements to protect and sustain benefits for persons with disabilities. “They wouldn’t cooperate” is not an excuse!
- Tell them that when it comes to supports for the developmentally disabled one size never fits all and that staffers who pursue blind ideology can never be right
- Push both federal and state legislatures to deny at the federal level and withdraw at the state level the Michigan proposal for administration of benefits for persons receiving both Medicare and Medicaid benefits.
- Demand that those who espouse social programs and those responsible for executing them do so with an irreproachable level of integrity and stewardship. (contrary to what we are seeing in Wayne County).
- Finally talk to your friends and legislators on the so called religious right and let them know that if you expect and encourage someone else to make hard decisions about life issues including abortion and contraception then you and your church and your government had better plan on being there with them through the delivery room, into the doctor’s office, through the special education program, the workshop the residential living arrangements the countless hours in waiting rooms and yes at the end in hospice. It is wrong for us as a country to expect someone else to walk a path we ourselves ignore by withholding our resources, our ministry and our personal attention.
In our absence there has been much action around the dual eligible issue and other topics that are important to our community. DD Advocates from other counties have carried the weight on behalf of all of us. Rather than replicate everything that has been done, I refer you to Jill Barker’s excellent site and encourage you to spend some time there looking at all the good work and fine articles from around the state. This link will take you to an article by Tom Bird of Ottawa County. http://theddnewsblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Dual%20Eligibles
As always, we invite you to share this document with others and, of course, let us know if you wish to be removed from our distribution list. You can visit us at http://ddadvocates.com/ . See you there.