Friday, August 19, 2011

Stopping the privatization of Medicaid and Medicare: Create jobs not profits

This country is in desperate need of legislation to halt the privatization of Medicaid and Medicare.

It is already costing taxpayers $11 billion a month in a subsidy or bailout or whatever you want to call it, that no one has voted on, and is the driving force behind a civil rights war going on right beneath our noses.

Throughout American history, every minority has won its equality through speaking up on is own behalf. The reason nobody knows about this particular civil rights war, is this time the minority cannot speak for itself.

They are our medically vulnerable of any age, those who because of time or disability would be living in institutions if not for Medicaid. Eighty-six percent of the national Medicaid budget is allocated for their care, to pay for the treatments and services to keep our loved ones at home with their families, or in the communities of their choice.

It may be budgeted for their care, but if it's paid to one of ten major for-profit HMOs, anywhere between twenty and fifty (or more) percent is taken out as a sort of middleman fee.

For our families, these cuts translate into reductions of sterile medical equipment, denials of anything from diapers to wheelchairs to communications devices, and reductions in those very services we need in order to keep our loved ones out of institutions. We sacrifice sleep, jobs, friends and the ability to multitask to try to compensate for cuts that were made to raise company profits.

Legislation imposing a 95% health benefits ratio (the percentage of the per person per month premium the HMO receives that is spent on actual health benefits) will do no good. The Administration effectively acknowledged the power of the criminal culture grown up around these HMOs when they gave Wellcare a "get out of jail free" card in April. No expenses they report themselves could ever be trusted.

The best legislation may be to outlaw capitation payments. Go back to a simple fee-for-service program; after all, it worked fine for forty years. All the county and state workers who lost their jobs when the HMO took over can be hired back. These are the people who are best capable of managing the care of someone who is medically vulnerable anyway, not employees of a for-profit HMO.

If the state goes back to writing the checks (more jobs), we eliminate the profit motive, while pumping $11 billion a month into local communities. That could translate into between 400,000 and 1 million jobs across the country. Every time a nurse is hired, a child or grandparent with disabilities is given forty hours a week of home nursing services, something that literally can mean the difference between life and death.

That could also be seen as a million jobs across the country that have been sacrificed in the past three years to keep profits up.

On my other website, I started a survey in January looking for information on how well states were adhering to federal Medicaid regulations. Not adhering means violating, right? While the sample remains small, every state represented so far is violating one federal regulation or another.

Yet the Supreme Court will soon be considering whether anyone signing up for Medicaid should forfeit the right to "federal Supremacy", turning about 50 million people immediately into second class citizens. The White House has also backed a series of proposed Medicaid regulations that implement this anti-regulation of the human and civil rights of our elderly, our adults and our children with disabilities.

Why isn't it child abuse to steal money intended to be spent on keeping children home with their families? Since when can the government abdicate regulatory control over the recipients of federal funds?

Millions like my daughter who have no ability to speak out in support of their own civil rights, are watching control over their life-and-death decisions being sold off to for-profit HMOs.

The first step to stop this insidious destruction of the human rights of the weakest members of our society is to let Congress and the President know that we know what they have been doing without the voters' permission. It is not over-dramatizing to say people have already died, and will continue to do so, until legislation takes the profit out of Medicaid and Medicare.

Please sign our petition here. With the pending Supreme Court decision, and final versions of those proposed new regulations coming up this fall, we need your voice now to help speak up for our children, those who will always be our children and those to whom we were children.

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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.