Friday, March 19, 2010

Is Arizona violating the civil rights of children with disabilities?

The New York Times reported yesterday that Arizona has become the first state to eliminate its Children's Health Insurance Program.  The move by Republican Governor Jan Brewer means the state will also be passing up millions of matching federal funds, as for every $1 cut in state spending, the state will lose at least $4 worth of services, jobs, taxes. etc.

The Children's Health Insurance Program in Arizona is operated under Medicaid.  It extends Medicaid benefits, including EPSDT, to 47,000 children.  How many of those children have disabilities is not broken out, but some are bound to be included. 

I cannot even imagine the legal ramifications of deciding a child has a civil right to medical care and then eliminating that right overnight. 

Business Week reported that Arizona was eliminating $385 million from its state Medicaid budget.  Under the Recovery Act, Arizona is receiving seventy-five cents from the federal government for every twenty-five cents it spends of its own money.  Medicaid budget cuts of $385 million would therefore mean a potential loss to the state of $1.54 billion in jobs, supplies, services, and general economic benefit.

Brewer herself made the papers the day before she signed this budget by sending an anti-health reform letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Ironically, she complained to Pilosi that "the devastating impacts of the federal legislation will rob Arizonans of their rights and pocketbooks alike."

Then she goes out the next day and tramples on the civil rights of kids with disabilities.

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About Me

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I'm the mom of a child with disabilities. Hannah's first neurologist said she might never develop beyond the level of a 2 month old infant, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. The brain damage was just too severe. Nine years later, she walks, uses a touchscreen computer and I've just been shown she can learn to construct sentences and do simple math with the right piece of technology. Along the way, I discovered I needed to teach myself what Hannah's rights to services really were. Learning about early intervention services led to reading about IDEA and then to EPSDT. I've been waiting for the Obama administration to realize the power and potential of EPSDT for the medical rights - including the right to stay at home with their families - of children with disabilities. The health reform people talk about long term care, and the disability people talk about education and employment, but nobody is talking about EPSDT. So I am.