Editor's Column - February 2011

The 2011 legislative session is ramping up, and I have not been at the capitol nearly as much as I’ve wanted to be. To keep up-to-date with what’s happening, it’s important to be there. Off the hill, things seem like they’re moving along slowly. But in the halls and meeting rooms of the capitol, it’s incredible how fast things can accelerate. There have been several Tuesdays at the Capitol, with very large self advocate turnouts. Our community’s visible presence at the capitol, so that legislators can see and talk with people, is vital. Really, just being there is an extraordinarily strong statement of the dedication to the real needs of our community. I urge you to participate in Tuesdays at the Capitol; it will help educate the new legislators about disability issues—and you’ll learn a lot about state law and policy. If you just want to get involved or learn more about the process, all you have to do is show up at the capitol on a Tuesday and find someone with a disability and ask if you can follow along with them, or have them introduce you to one of the lobbyists that you can follow. Most will be more than happy to help you learn the ropes and help you feel connected.   

“Minnesota’s Healthcare Imperative” is a document that many of the state’s HMOs and insurance companies have submitted to the legislature presenting proposals to cut costs at the Department of Health and Human Services. Unfortunately, the document seems to have been written by consultants who are unfamiliar with what Minnesota Health and Human Services has been doing for years and who didn’t even search the Health and Human Services website for facts. The report is extremely flawed and misleading.   

With so many freshmen legislators, a document that is so misleading is bound to become a severe threat to many of the programs that people with disabilities rely on. For example, the document suggests that the state require prior authorization for PCA hours, although in fact prior authorization has always been required for any PCA services. The document states, “Total cost of care must be considered as the system looks to avoid ‘squeezing the balloon,’ saving one dollar through an initiative only to incur two dollars of cost somewhere else.” But then it goes on to suggest short-term savings without discussing long-term costs. For instance, it recommends that the state “eliminate all or some adult dental services.” We know that reducing dental services provided by a dental professional in a dental clinic causes higher cost in emergency room visits for dental problems—yet the “Healthcare Imperative” proposes to reduce emergency room visits by 5%.  

Speaking of emergency room visits, the document alleges, “Only 20 percent of emergency departments visits are true emergencies, and at least one-third of all visits are for non-urgent health problems.” I wonder how many of those visits are for things like dental problems?  “Minnesota’s Healthcare Imperative” is an insult to so many of our legislators who over years have worked hard to create strong, yet cost-effective health care programs. There is no question that we need to find ways to cut expenses in health care in Minnesota but most of this document’s suggestions will disproportionately affect people with disabilities and will certainly cost more in the long term. I do not think Minnesota wants to back down on its commitment as a state that provides needed services, much less to be out of compliance with the ADA and the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision about unnecessary institutionalization.

We want to maintain strong healthcare for our low-income, vulnerable citizens and people with disabilities.At Access Press, we continue to make changes at our website so that we can stay in touch with the community throughout the month. We will be introducing you to some previews of blog sites this month. We are excited about them and how each of them will give us extra insights on a variety of topics while giving each of you an opportunity to take part in conversations. Let us know what you think.   

Stay safe on these cold days; another long winter will soon be over!

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