The 2001 Legislative Session began on Jan. 2nd and will run through mid-May. This year, legislators will make decisions concerning health care, transportation, housing, education, human services and welfare reform that could impact the community of people with disabilities. The following is a list of disability organizations and the issues important to them in this legislative session.
The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) has established a broad-based coalition to help address the Medical Assistance (MA) Income Standard. The income standard is the amount of income seniors and persons with disabilities who need Medical Assistance are allowed to have if they are unable to work. CCD believes that this income standard “is grossly inadequate to pay even basic expenses and must be raised.”
The coalition project, called the “100% Campaign,” proposes to raise the income standard to 100 percent of poverty, or $695/month, for a single adult, up from the current standard of $482/month which is more than 30% below the poverty level. In addition the Campaign is asking the legislature to raise the asset limits to equal the current state prescription drug program limits to equal the current state prescription drug program limits of $10,000 for a single adult and $18,000 for a married couple. This will provide uniformity between these state programs.
The MNCCD Work Incentive Committee proposes to allow MA-EPD participants to keep assets if they are unable to work. Currently, people with disabilities enrolled in the Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities (MA-EPD) program who become unemployed are forced to spend down their assets, including retirement savings, in order to remain MA-eligible. The MNCCD Work Incentives Committee is concerned that a person could return to work for a couple of years, develop a modest savings account and then see it evaporate within a couple of months if a health problem kept them off the job for longer than two months. The Committee proposes to freeze assets for a person enrolled in MA-EPD who is unable to continue working for a period of one year from the person’s last date of employment (for life, in the case of retirement benefits).
Advocating Change Together (ACT) is continuing its campaign to urge the State of Minnesota to make a public apology to all persons with developmental disabilities who have been involuntarily committed to state institutions, and is seeking to have the State “commit itself in their memory to move steadfastly to ensure that all Minnesotans with developmental disabilities who in the future turn to the state for assistance will receive the appropriate assistance they need.”
ARC Minnesota wants to give the consumer more control over the funding for their support services. Funding would allow an increase in consumer choices and options, a reduction in administrative costs of the system and an overall simplification of the complex service system.
ARC is seeking a legislative proposal to reform the public guardianship system for the 4,300 public wards in the state who have developmental disabilities, by shifting responsibility from the counties to a state agency or a mult-purpose non-profit organization. ARC will be promoting legislation aimed at addressing the shortage of personal care service workers, including increasing wages and expanding health insurance options for direct care staff. ARC is seeking increased federal funding to allow people to receive day training and habilitation services while living with their families. Also on the agenda is securing adequate funding to continue to provide entry cost assistance and home ownership counseling to persons with disabilities seeking to become homeowners.
The Association of Residential Resources in Minnesota (ARRM) will provide steps in shifting control from government and providers to people with disabilities, removing constraints that prohibit more effective use of resources/consumer control. ARRM also seeks to increase caregiver wages to the average personal income in Minnesota–$14.50/hr in next two years, and would like to develop tuition credit and career training programs, encouraging quality staff to build careers as caregivers.
Brain Injury Association of Minnesota will ask for funding for the Extended Employment Program (DES) to create a choice of supported-employment groups for people with brain injury. Also, the group wants state funding to replace federal demonstration grants which currently pay for hospital discharge/community reintegration. The development of local community supports will increase self-sufficiency and reduce the need for public services.
Other goals for the Brain Injury of MN include bringing the service standards for people with brain injuries to a level that equals standards for other disability groups. Also they will focus on programs and laws that push for brain injury prevention such as seatbelt enforcement and adjusting the legal blood alcohol level from 1.0 to .08.
The Minnesota Coalition for Children with Disabilities seeks to retain the current system of funding for special education, and supports legislation to reduce class sizes in special education and to provide disability behavior training for all teachers and paraprofessionals. The Coalition also aims to improve the system for preventing maltreatment of minors, and will work to establish a pilot project to support interagency funding of effective intensive interventions for young children with Autism.
MN Association of Community Mental Health Programs, Inc. would like MA rates readjusted so reimbursement is increased to more closely match a person’s actual cost of service. MACMHP will also advocate for additional Medicaid and Medicare financing in hopes that mental health coverage would receive parity with other health services. The group will also push laws that prevent a reallocation of surplus funds to non-disability organizations. Plus, the group will aim to develop community-based MH care while decreasing hospital/institutional care. As do many other disability organizations, MACMHP endorses development of client-centered care that is individualized, least restrictive, normalized, and recovery-oriented.
Courage Center will fight all efforts to weaken the ADA. Any ADA revisions which provide interpretation of the law for building purposes will be monitored by Courage.
Health care is another focus for the center. In addition to upholding legislation for the parity of mental health reimbursements, Courage wants to advance the inclusion date for the state’s discount drug program for people with disabilities from 7/01/02 to 7/01/01. Courage Center also maintains the efforts of the 100% Campaign.
Other priorities on Courage Center’s agenda include LRT accessibility, funding for Metro Mobility, special education subsidies, improving on the current workforce shortage and the availability of assistive technology.
Minnesota Home Care Association will introduce legislation that allows providers of home care services to bill Medical Assistance for transportation reimbursement for employees. The group will also develop a formula that allows Minnesota to tap into the federal portion of Medical Assistance.
Metropolitan Center for Independent Living will actively support the 100% Campaign and the MA-EPD work mentioned above. MCIL will also support certain changes in transportation—long-term planning for Metro Mobility, and alternative transit options such as accessible taxies. In addition, MCIL will present to legislature an Affirmative Action Goal for people with disabilities.
Mental Health Legislative Network will seek to force health plans to cover mental health services like other health conditions. MHLN will also seek to stop cost-shifting from the private to the public sector. MHLN’s agenda also focuses on supported employment, housing shortage, family involvement, and children’s mental health services. The group will also monitor the Olmstead decision and its implementation.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Minnesota Chapter will actively support the 100% campaign, and the MA-EPD assets campaign, and will seek to ensure that all counties in the state have transportation services for people with disabilities. The group also supports equal salaries with labor market for health care workers, supports expansion of the MN Prescription Drug Program to include people with disabilities (see last month’s ACCESS PRESS), and increases in compensation for state health care workers. for improvements in transportation. NMSS, also an advocate for the 100% campaign, will ensure that all counties in the state have transportation services for people with disabilities. Such efforts will require additional funding for rural transportation. The group also supports equal salaries with labor market for health care workers.
You are encouraged to take part in this legislative process. The legislature provides assistance for persons with special needs and barrier free access to public hearings. And, regional cable channel 6 televises much of the legislative action. To find out more, you can contact:
Senate Sergeant at Arms (651) 296-1119
House Sergeant at Arms (651) 296-4860
Minnesota Relay Service—deaf, hard of hearing, speech impaired and hearing people via the telephone (651) 602-9005.