Tag: ADA

Feds Fiddling While State Medicaid Programs BURN

Posted by – May 21, 2010

Question: In light of Obama’s plan to expand Medicaid eligibility, is anyone in Congress noticing the MASSIVE state budget cuts to Medicaid across the country and ruminating about how that jives with this impending expansion? I fear that if states have to raise income eligibility and bring millions of uninsured onto the Medicaid rolls, that will mean even deeper cuts in “optional” home care programs to pay for the expansion, and even more people with disabilities’ dreams shattered.

I wish Congress would have put protecting the most disabled Americans ahead of uninsured able-bodied people, but they didn’t. For Congress, people like me are invisible.

The states slashing Medicaid the deepest (the Southern states) are the ones that will see the most new Medicaid eligibles thanks to “Health Care Reform.”

PERFECT
FISCAL
STORM

That means life for people with disabilities in the South is about to get even worse. Good thing I fled Alabama.

Medicaid, especially in the South, is increasingly in tatters. State Medicaid programs were slashed to the bone in the 90s thanks to “the Republican Revolution” and now there’s no fat left to trim, so they’re taking chainsaws to muscle and bone.

In the Wall Street Journal, it discusses a woman who’s had to sit in her own waste all day thanks to state budget cuts. I suppose the state hoped her bed sores and inevitable sepsis take her quickly, otherwise Medicaid will be on the hook for expensive hospital stays that would dwarf the cost of just leaving her f#$%ing home care uncut in the first place. I’ve seen this happen over and over again to people I fight for. It’s left me scarred to depths few of you could ever understand.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal piece, by Clare Ansberry.

FLORENCE, S.C—Tandem forces of shrinking state budgets and rising health-care costs have collided and struck a small brick ranch house in this rural town, home to Barbara Hickey.

Born with cerebral palsy, Ms. Hickey, now 67 years old, is confined to a motorized wheelchair. She lives alone and relies on certified nurse’s assistants to get her in and out of bed, bathed, clothed and fed.

In December, she received a letter from the South Carolina Department of Special Needs and Disabilities, saying her weekly 50 hours of personal-care help was being cut to 28 hours. That meant Ms. Hickey would get help for two hours in the morning and two hours at night. If she needed to use the bathroom in between, she would sit in a soiled diaper.

After several days of reduced care, the local office of the South Carolina Legal Services appealed the cuts on behalf of Ms. Hickey. Her hours have been restored pending the appeal.

Home health care—funded largely by Medicaid—generally costs less money than institutionalizing developmentally disabled people like Ms. Hickey. But the political reality is that it’s easier to cut back home services than to close a 24-hour facility, which can leave people with nowhere to go. Thus, some of the biggest cuts around the country are happening in the basic services that help the disabled cope at home.

South Carolina says it has little choice but to cut funding for Medicaid. It faced a $563 million deficit for the current fiscal year, and like other states must have a balanced budget. Medicaid, the joint federal-state health-insurance program for the poor and disabled, already consumes about 20% of its $5 billion budget and is one of its fastest growing costs.

The health-care program is on course to consume 40% of the budget of South Carolina in five years, and leaves little for anything else, says Gov. Mark Sanford. “It could force legislators to either cut further into bone in the areas of education, law enforcement and economic development, or raise taxes. Neither option is palatable.”

The state already is making painful cuts elsewhere. The state’s Department of Juvenile Justice has closed five group homes and cut 25 after-school programs. There are 1,000 fewer public-education teachers this school year than last.

Across the country, budget-strapped states are focusing on Medicaid. Created in 1965, it is now a $379 billion program, including state and federal funds. State spending grew an average 7.9% in fiscal 2009 as the economic crisis hit and more people signed up for Medicaid.

It was the highest growth rate since the last downturn six years ago. Spending is expected to keep growing at that pace for the next decade because of rising costs and growing enrollment.

But states don’t have much flexibility when it comes to what they can and can’t cut inside Medicaid. Although it is a state-managed system, the federal government pays a percentage of each state’s total costs and makes many of the Medicaid rules. Under federal Medicaid law, states must offer inpatient and outpatient hospital care, X-rays and lab services. They also have to cover nursing-home services and meet certain standards, such as staffing ratios.

There are further constraints this year. States can’t reduce Medicaid eligibility this year because of a condition attached to federal stimulus money, and under health-care reform, they can’t eliminate existing programs.

States also run up against other laws when they make deep cuts. Lawsuits have been filed in South Carolina, Florida, Connecticut, Virginia, Mississippi and New York, claiming Medicaid cuts make it impossible for those with disabilities to live at home and that it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
(I know the lawyers behind this class action. I say RIGHT ON!!!!)

Logically, states would cut the most expensive, least efficient services and keep the most cost-effective. But because of mandates and the need to save money quickly, that isn’t as easy as it sounds.

For example, home care—because relatives often provide some of the care—is generally cheaper than housing people with developmental disabilities in institutional facilities. In 1993, the average Medicaid cost for each person with disabilities was $48,500. At the end of 2008, the latest figures available, it cost an average $55,000. Adjusted for inflation, that actually represents a 23% decrease, largely as a result of more services being shifted away from costly institutions to the home, says Charlie Lakin, director of a University of Minnesota program that tracks services for the developmentally disabled.

But many in-home services, though critical to those receiving them, are optional. Furthermore, there aren’t many minimum standards set for in-home services, so it’s easier to cut them without violating funding requirements. There are fewer immediate consequences for the state when it cuts those services because families won’t generally abandon disabled relatives and leave states on the hook for housing.

Cutting home care could ultimately prove penny-wise and pound-foolish, however. It could push more people into institutions or large group homes because that is where services are guaranteed, even though institutional care is more expensive.

The department’s fiscal problems have been exacerbated by past spending decisions. A special state audit released in December 2008 showed that the department hadn’t provided many new services for which it had received funding and, as a result, it couldn’t recoup millions in federal matching Medicaid dollars. For example, the state spent less than $700,000 of $10 million allocated to serve autistic children, which resulted in the loss of $13.6 million in federal matching money. The state said it couldn’t ramp up the program fast enough because it couldn’t find qualified service providers. After the audit, the executive director of the department and four of the department’s seven commissioners resigned. The department has since implemented most of the recommendations made by the Legislative Audit Council.
(This same thing nearly happened with the NHTD –Nursing Home Transition & Diversion– waiver here in New York: the bureaucracy imposed on providers was SO ridiculous than very few participated, and the rules were so cumbersome for patients that, in the program’s first two years, only one patient downstate–me–transitioned home from a facility!)

Recent state cuts have targeted developmentally disabled people living at home. In December, families were told that some of their in-home support was being cut by as much as half.

Brian Phillips, a 37-year-old with cerebral palsy, was told that he was losing half of his personal-care hours. He can work a TV with a remote control but can’t dress or feed himself, or get in and out of his bed or wheelchair.

He lives alone with his father, James, 70. The elder Mr. Phillips, who has had open heart surgery and whose heart functions at only 26% of its capacity, cannot lift Brian on his own. He appealed the cuts and the hours were restored pending his appeal.

“These are cuts no one wants to make. They are very difficult for agencies to implement and they are very upsetting and very, very difficult for our families,” says Lois Park Mole, spokesperson for the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs.

People will generally do what they must to keep their disabled family member at home regardless of the cuts. At some point, however, even the most dedicated may not be able to continue, especially as their own health deteriorates.

In Aiken County, Board of Disabilities Executive Director Ralph Courtney says waiting lists for services are growing. There are more than 5,000 on waiting lists for various services, from residential programs to in-home programs.

“We want to give families hope to keep their family unit together, but in reality there is very little we can put in place to assist them,” says Mr. Courtney.

In-home support is cheaper, he says, than the alternative: group homes and larger residential programs that need to be maintained and staffed 24 hours a day. “But you can’t put people out on the street,” he says. “You can cut in-home support.”

Even though Ms. Hickey lives alone and needs help with nearly every aspect of daily living, it cost less to have her live in a house with 50 hours of personal care help than in a nursing home. Institutional care in South Carolina costs about $100,000 per person a year, compared to $39,000 for home and community services, according to the University of Minnesota research.

Read the entire article here: Disabled Face Hard Choices as States Slash Medicaid

How does littering the entire country with families destroyed by Medicaid cuts, jive with HEALTH CARE REFORM?

Honestly, I have gotten so many hate messages over the years, I’m now convinced that the Americans will continue to react with cold indifference, or, worse, celebration–“good riddance! No one is gonna force me to pay for you useless leeches!”–as Medicaid policy continues to cull out people with disabilities like me, UNABATED.

And you wonder why I’m so angry that I’d consider reconstructing the U.S. entirely? It’s because my every day experience involves the above Kafkaesque Medicaid policies harming me or the people I care about!

Nick

Blog To End Unjust Institutionalization!

Posted by – October 5, 2009

ADAPT is going back to the heart of the civil rights movement, Atlanta, to demand that the promises made to Georgians (and all Americans) by the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C. and E.W. are kept. Read ADAPT’s page on the action here.

Segregating people with disabilities in institutions solely because they need daily help, especially given the 21st century technology that can assist them and the widespread success of people with disabilities living in the community, is fundamentally unjust, immoral, overly costly, and, according to the Olmstead ruling, illegal under Title II of the ADA.

Olmstead, the case of two Georgia natives who wanted the state to stop segregating them, affirmed all Americans’ right to receive care in “the least restrictive setting” (i.e. not in prison-like institutions) and ordered all states to end unnecessary confinement of their disabled citizens (which it deemed illegal discrimination) at a “reasonable pace.” Most states have done little to nothing to comply. The institutional bias of the system is deeply entrenched, and even though the Olmstead decision came down 10 years ago last June, millions of people with disabilities are still kept out of sight, out of mind, stuck in institutions. “A right delayed is a right denied,” Martin Luther King, Jr. would say.


Georgia’s system, the focus of the Olmstead case, remains notoriously bad, insisting on expensive life-long institutionalizations that strip people of any choice in their daily lives, block opportunities to grow and become self sufficient, and kill hope. And most states are similarly awful, especially in the South. They refuse to heed the Supreme Court’s orders, reminiscent of their failure to follow school desegregation rulings “with all deliberate speed.”

We can no longer ignore illegal segregation and the community support services states must use to prevent it. We can no longer ignore Olmstead. We mustn’t put long-term care on the backburner and not include it in this year’s health care reform; telling us to wait another decade or more is deeply unjust. ADAPT will be in Atlanta, October 10-15, demanding that this change. You can help raise awareness around the Fall National Action by blogging!

The ADAPT Blogswarm, Fall ’09, will collect posts raising the issues of the institutional bias, ablist and unjust institutionalization, lack of community-based services, long-term care reform, the Olmstead decision and posts highlighting ADAPT’s Fall Action. Blogswarm posts will all be listed here, on nickscrusade.org, on October 12.

Your blogging is incredibly important to raise awareness of these issues (often swept under the rug). Please contribute to the blogswarm!

For instructions on how to participate, see
ADAPT Blogswarm, Fall Action 2009

Thank you!

Nick

Is The U.S. The World Leader In Disability Rights?

Posted by – August 7, 2009

So, the U.S. has now signed on to the historic UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD). People are saying this is wonderful, the ACLU is saying that it marks America’s return as a world human rights leader (by the way, the Senate has yet to ratify the treaty). I’m concerned that this is largely happy talk, just more lip service while meanwhile we’re badly behind in enforcing the Rehab Act, the ADA, Olmstead, and the other disability rights legislation we’ve fought so hard for. Will the CRPA become yet another unenforced law on top of that growing pile? Particularly grating to me was this commentary on AAPD’s Justice For All blog, which closes with this:

The US can engage in meaningful partnerships across sectors and help developing nations with the construction of accessible infrastructure, expanding inclusive education and vocational training opportunities. By signing the Convention the US is dedicated to these efforts. Can we make a different, “Yes We Can!”

Wut?? The U.S. is going to be like the Peace Corps for accessibility of the third-world’s infrastructure or some $#!T?! PLEASE!! We can’t even implement our own disability rights laws! As we speak, the feds are moving against ENTIRE TOWNS that are inaccessible and violating the ADA! Don’t send the Accessibility Corps to Africa or India; first send them to renovate the Mobile Public Schools! First send them to Ann St. in Lower Manhattan, where most of the businesses are inaccessible, and all over the five boroughs, where inaccessible pre-war buildings seem to be the rule, not the exception. Where’s the US’ “meaningful partnerships across sectors” to address this inaccessible McDonald’s on 429 7th Ave. off W 34th, which is a major tourist area?

Picture of some serious McFail in accessibility.  Alejandra provides us an important public service by documenting the many accessibility fails of NYC

Picture of some serious McFail in accessibility. Alejandra provides us an important public service by documenting the many accessibility fails of NYC

We weren’t looking for some McDs yesterday, we were searching for pizza. The Spinelli’s pizza next door was accessible. When a locally-owned pizzeria tops a mega-giant multi-national chain in basic accessibility, that gigantic corporation needs to do some rethinking. As a special double bird to the elderly and disabled, this particular McDonald’s location has accessible entrances on either side of the stairs…that only open from the INSIDE, and only lead to stairs for the basement, staff confirmed. That leaves the middle stairs as the only access point for this location. Well done 7th Ave. McDonald’s, that’s some top-notch FAIL!

The U.S. has a lot of changes to make before we are a disability rights leader, an example to follow.

Any idea of when I’ll be able to access currently INACCESSIBLE public businesses? Maybe for the ADA’s 29th anniversary? 39th? Dammit, where’s the enforcement? We have no room to finger-wag and advise other countries about disability rights!

Nick

Disabled Still Forced Into Institutions Just For Turning 21: Open Letter To The Disability Community, August 2009

Posted by – August 2, 2009

Obama Administration Signs the CRPD Treaty, But Is In Flagrant Violation Of It, The ADA, Olmstead, and Its Own “Year of Community Living” PR Campaign, As Arbitrary Termination of Medicaid Home Care Services at Age 21 Continues Unabated

The recent addition of the U.S. as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) has been much ballyhooed. Any idea if/when Article 19 of the CRPD Treaty will be enforced? That’s the article that guarantees me community choice, the freedom to live in my community, without fear of being segregated in a nursing home because the government will only provide care in institutions. You know, the right to “the most integrated setting” that TEN YEARS AGO the Supreme Court ruled we’re entitled to under the ADA?! This is particularly bitter for me because I am currently STUCK IN AN INSTITUTION.
Why agree to Article 19 when we are not following it?! The feds continue to look the other way while poorer states cut off community services for the severely disabled just because they’ve turned 21, and leave them no choices but death and/or an institution. I had to fight that policy years ago in Alabama, and won, but apparently this despicable practice is still going strong in Illinois, as I recently read on VentWorld:

My son turns 21 at the end of August and will lose his current funding source. There are no adult waivers or funding that would provide him with the same level of support he has now. Trying to get info to prove that he would NOT be safe in a skilled nursing facility or nursing home. I found a web site where I can look up the name of a home to find out their staffing levels, ratios, violations, etc. but I have to know the name of the homes first. When I do search for homes the results are not specific to ones that can handle complex ventilator care. The state of Illinois wants the cheapest plan for my son which means without proper documentation they will only provide him with minimal funding for nursing care in our home. He currently has 114 hours per week and 336 respite care hours per year. The state is saying the adult program only allows for about 30-40 hours per week – more if we use non-skilled people. The state wants to find the cheapest way to care for him and if that is a nursing home then I must have proof that the staffing ratios will not be adequate for him. Plus there are no facilities anywhere close to where we live so he would have to leave his community, his friends, his family, his job, etc. He is very social, wants to continue living at home and just because he has a birthday his life is being turned upside down. If you know of facilities that take patients 21 years of age or older with complex ventilator care and what level of staff and their ratios please respond. Thank you.

I’ve been fuming furious ever since I found this post a few days ago; despite all my years of work on the 21 “aging out” policies, despite the fact that I brought national attention to the problem and forced the HHS secretary to notice, the government (state AND federal) are still allowing this unintended consequence of the EPSDT program to put even ventilator-dependent people and their families in a horrible, untenable positions where their lives will be torn apart at best, and lost to nursing home neglect at worst. For adults, it’s incredibly difficult to remain at home if you have a severe disability. As Dr. Ford Vox wrote in a recent piece in Salon: “…if your electric wheelchair breaks down or needs a new battery, we’ll have no problem moving you into a nursing home. You’d prefer a new battery so you can continue living at home? You picked the wrong state. As a poor Missourian, you’ll have no more than 30 days for your rehabilitation. Not quite ready to go home? Need a few more days of intensive therapy? Again, you picked the wrong state. Missouri Medicaid wants to admit you to a nursing home so much that it also doesn’t allow for outpatient physical therapy services or in-home therapies, taking another essential tool out of the hands of your medical team.”

We won CRPA, The ADA, Olmstead, and more, but our victories seem almost inversely proportional to the realities on the ground, as states slash services to the bone at the same time as the disabled population (uninsured or uninsurable) grows. The president announced his “Year of Community Living” as a mother in Illinois prepares to move her ventilator-dependent son away from his job and community and into an institution just because he’ll soon turn 21 and “age out” of what little services the feds require state Medicaid agencies provide to children.

The “out of sight, out of mind” mentality of our politicians makes me angry; the fact that so many advocates in the disability community, who should be fighting for our most vulnerable people, are every bit as unaware of the 21 cutoff infuriates me. The termination of Medicaid home care services at 21 is like this wormhole that’s continuing to suck innocent people in and lead them to institutionalization and/or death, and the fact that I’m (as far as I know) still the only activist noticing this and fighting back is intensely frustrating and disturbing. We’ve GOT to stop fiddling while Rome burns, and unite to end the worst injustices. And the ongoing FAILURE to rectify the 21 cutoff situation should certainly be at the top of that list.

Nick

NYC’s 19th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Event

Posted by – August 2, 2009

Nadina LaSpina (NYC ADAPT) gives a powerful, stirring speech about how far disability rights has yet to go, and Elaine Kolb sings an insightful song about the medical-institutional complex at the 19th ADA Anniversary Event in Central Park, July 26, 2009.

The ADA Turns 19. Are Businesses Listening?

Posted by – July 26, 2009

There is, deservedly, much talk this ADA anniversary of the broken promise that the ADA guarantees people can live in “the most integrated setting” and how Obama just signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) while continuing to ignore long-term care (and the CRPD’s article on community choice).

But what about the most basic accessibility?  The most fundamental provisions of the ADA involve a guarantee of disability access to buildings open to the public.  But we’re not there yet.  Even in the Big Citysteps block wheelchair access to businesses.

19 YEARS after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) enshrined accessibility in federal law, we’re still dealing with this crap!

We wanted to get into this Popeyes on Ann St. but couldnt because of this one step.

We wanted to get into this Popeyes on Ann St. but couldn't because of this one step.

ADA FAIL

ADA FAIL

They’ve had almost two decades to build basic and inexpensive ramps, but haven’t.

It is UNJUST that we can’t access restaurants just because we’re disabled. These are some of the injustices that the ADA was primarily written to rectify. But the law is moot when unheeded and unenforced.

Does the ADA matter if businesses aren’t listening?

Nick

Related Posts with Thumbnails