Editor’s Column – June 2013

What a crazy spring! It seems like every day we have had rain and far too many thunderstorms disturbing one’s […]

What a crazy spring! It seems like every day we have had rain and far too many thunderstorms disturbing one’s sleep. My dog is even showing frustration with the constantly damp grass. He likes to roll around in grass when it is dry to scratch his back and face. What is a poor dog to do with his itchy nose when it just slides on wet grass?

Now that the legislative session is over the lawsuits have begun. A suit was filed concerning the unionization of home health care and day care workers. Actually, I’m not exactly sure how personal care workers who work though agencies will be affected by the new “right to unionize” law. There are many preparing for the worst possible scenario for day care workers, and maybe rightfully so. I could understand why a private day care worker who was also the owner-operator of a business would join a union for a couple years. The union could provide for an increased billing rate. But would there really be a decent return on investment, considering union dues and the cost of joining? I think we should be skeptical about the intent and effect of this bill, especially when there’s so much controversy in the House and Senate, and given the number of times the bill was tabled and the close votes. I keep thinking of how the House and Senate debated in the past over moving to agency-based PCA programs. Many of us protested having to make the switch to go through an agency instead of billing the state directly. We were sure that we would lose our control and autonomy. Fortunately, in my opinion, the PCA program using agencies has been nothing but a success for all parties. So maybe, even though I’m skeptical, this unionization bill will do the same.

Something else we need to watch and possibly get involved with is the durable medical goods competitive bidding process at the federal level. Unfortunately, it might even be too late to get this bidding repealed before the damage has been done. Ask your durable goods provider how these changes will be affecting you and them and what you might do to help them adapt and retain quality service in this new process.

Yet another change we will keep an eye on is the merger of Sister Kenny and Courage Center. Access Press was given an opportunity to interview both organizations’ leadership. If the merger of the two into Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute works as management expects, we should all benefit from this arrangement. The combining of the two organizations should make one stronger, more stable service organization that will, with philanthropic help, try new innovative approaches and streamline how rehabilitation can work in Minnesota. They may also affect how it works across the country and internationally, if all goes according to their plan. There’s no question that the two players are very excited about the future and have a lot to gain in this whole blending of forces. They think the disability community will gain, as well.

I’ve been assured by both organizations that the Courage Center advocacy work will continue. Jan Malcolm, who as readers know, was the CEO of Courage Center before the merger, will now be the vice president of public policy for the Allina Health system. Given Malcolm’s passion and experience in health care policy and innovation, we should hope to see some positive influences on the disability community’s overall health and the programs that keep us healthy. Hopefully Malcolm and her department heads will be able to extend their reach in government much further than they have.

Penny Wheeler, chief clinical officer at Allina, said to me, “To be an effective health care provider, we have to move away from a system that rewards us for how many procedures we do to people and how many people we do procedures to into a system that rewards us for how ‘well’ we keep people, how healthy we keep people and how close to home we keep people. That’s why I’m here and that’s our mission and this merger follows that mission, as well.” She also said, quoting someone early on in the merger process, that Sister Kenny taught them how to break an egg and Courage Center taught them how to make the omelet. This merger will test what the combined Courage Kenny has to teach us all.