Sunday, September 4, 2011

Families to Hawaii's governor: Yes, you have failed

Families of children with disabilities have reacted strongly to the August 22 meeting with Governor Abercrombie. The letter below was written the day following the meeting.

Dear Governor Abercrombie:

We are families whose lives have benefited from Hawaii’s Insurance Commission external review system.
The format of yesterday’s conference did not enable all of us to speak. Many of us made the extraordinary effort to meet you in June, but you did not attend.

You said yesterday that:

“I think it’s fair to say that people felt that the review panel process in place kept the insurance companies in check, and on the whole they were able to get services that they wanted to have.

The two avenues available, the Department of Human Services hearing process or the 3-person panel, and I think most people went for the 3-person panel, and felt that was satisfactory. Nobody was arguing with that, least of all Suzie or Roz or myself or for that matter the professionals at DHS, that is to say those that were left after the ranks had been decimated over the last years.”

Please explain to us: if this is so, why did you sign a bill that deprives everyone on Medicaid of this process? The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services did not disapprove our existing process for Medicaid members, which is not an issue with the ACA. In fact, it expressly approved the inclusion of the 3-member panel option in the RFPs for QUEST and QExA (and we have not seen anything showing that DHHS approved revoking this option).

You said the denials of services that threaten the lives of our families are just “glitches.” You said the on-going regulatory violations we are experiencing are to do with the contractor. You said that if we needed a lawyer to dispute a denial, that means you are failing.

I regret to inform you that you are failing. Based on Insurance Division statistics, the number of cases filed since you took office nearly equals the number filed in the last 10 years. In fact, since you took office, over 20 cases have been filed in the external review and won by QUEST or QExA members against Evercare and HMSA QUEST. Some of those cases were previously denied by the Administrative Appeal and even had Legal Aid assistance. Apologies for failing, promises to do better, and an uncertain plan of assistance, will not help those more than twenty families as certainly as the external review did. The health plans are the only winners under SB1274.

Most of us are, right this minute, depending on a lawyer for our lives, and the lives of our children. We are in the midst of “glitches” that have spanned months, if not years. We have all experienced the failure of the DHS review system, including their failure to monitor the contractors for federal compliance.

We appreciate your intentions, but your proposals on Monday did not meet our concerns. In fact, they left us terrified for our futures and angry that you could belittle our life-and-death battles with the insurance plans as mere “glitches.” We will not rest our efforts until we have a system we can count on to prevent health plans from running over us and our 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.