Crunch time is on at the state capitol as the Minnesota Legislature works toward a May 23 adjournment deadline. But with Gov. Mark Dayton and the House and Senate far apart on budget bills, including the crucial Health and Human Services bills, what could happen in the days ahead is anyone’s guess.
Virtually every service people with disabilities rely on would be affected by those bills, as well as myriad of other bills from education to transportation. Members of the disability community attended home district meetings with their representatives and senators during the April holiday break, and resumed lobbying when the session reconvened after Easter.
As Access Press went to press, conference committees were looking at the bills to see if agreement could be reached. Watch the newspaper’s Twitter feed, website and Facebook page for updates.
“Real Cuts, Real Harm, Real Lives” was the theme Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities used at an April 12 rally to describe the negative impacts the community will experience from cuts to disability services included in the House and Senate Health and Human Services Omnibus bills.
“Legislative leaders have promised to protect disability services, and some legislators are claiming that the House and Senate health and human services bill protect people with disabilities and their families. We want to let all legislators know that these bills WILL cause harm,” said Steve Larson, MN-CCD Co-Chair and Public Policy Director for Arc Minnesota. “If these bills pass into law in current form, they will create the very outcomes legislators say they want to avoid: job loss for those providing services, higher state spending for providing care, and a decrease or even elimination of services that make it possible for our citizens with disabilities to live, work, and contribute to their communities.”
People with every type of disability will be affected by the daunting myriad of cuts, speakers said. One possibility is that many more people will be forced out of their homes and into nursing home care.
Several self-advocates and their family members spoke at the conference. Joe Haines of Stillwater and his daughter Cari Myhra spoke of how the cut to family-provided personal care attendance services would affect them. The current program allows the family to help with their father’s care.
“Drastic cuts will clearly take a toll on our family units,” Myhra said.
Waiver services are another worry. One battleground is a proposed $93 million cut that would in effect cost Minnesota $186 million in state and federal Medicaid funds. According to Anne Henry of the Minnesota Disability Law Center, this deep cut will roll back spending to March 2010 levels. It would mean that beginning July 1, 2011, when an adult with developmental disabilities loses his or her aging parent caregiver or when a person sustains a traumatic brain injury there will not be any resources to provide emergency services for those in crisis. The people who are eligible for waiver services who experience a crisis include persons with developmental disabilities, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, mental illnesses and autism. These people can’t take care of themselves and will cost money, likely more money, in other inappropriate settings, Henry said.
The Senate home and community-based services waiver limit cuts very deep as well, with a cut of $58.5 million ($117 million in state and federal funds), but Henry said the Senate doesn’t roll back waiver resources and would allow “turn-over resources” to be used to meet at least some of the crisis needs over the next two years.
Other cuts have major consequences. Adults (over age 21) on Medical Assistance (Medicaid) would no longer have rehabilitation not receive rehabilitation therapies following a stroke, hip fracture, accident, or any other catastrophic accident or illness. Access to physical, occupational, and speech therapy would not exist. Children would still have access to these services, but more red tape requirements may delay or interrupt service treatment plans, according to Courage Center.
The list of potential cuts goes on. Thousands of Minnesotans could lose PCA services, and those who rely on family members to provide personal care would have that reimbursement cut back. Co-payments would increase for many medical visits. Transportation programs, including Metro Mobility, could be cut or have costs raised. A possible redesign of medical transportation services could also pass along more costs to consumers.
Another huge concern many advocates and organizations are tracking is in state Vocational Rehabilitation Services, which provides counseling and support services funding to help people with disabilities find and retain employment. Deep cuts to Medical Assistance for Employed Persons with Disabilities or MA-EPD could affect many of the 7,000 Minnesotans who use the program.
Since 1999 MA-EPD has helped people with disabilities pay a monthly premium to access needed Medicaid services. Under proposed legislation premiums paid would increase, some by 100 percent. Participants would have to turn over more of their Social Security checks to the state government. In many cases it would take away any incentive to work. Much of their earned income would be paid back on a higher Medicaid premium.