Editor's Column - March 2010

This last month, many Minnesotans lost at the capitol. As you’ve probably heard, General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) will be discontinued as of April 1. The people who are on this program will be moved to MinnesotaCare if they can afford it. Of course, most of the people on this program have no income other than a General Assistance payment of $203 a month (to be eligible for General Assistance Medical Care they would have had to have earnings under $226 a month). On Minnesota-Care, these same folks will have a sliding-fee premium to pay, plus co-pays for many of their clinical visits and prescriptions that will most likely be unaffordable. I have only compassion for people who have been put in a position to either be hospitalized or even jailed to get any care from the state.

I was at the capitol on one of the days when people on GAMC were testifying about their situations, and it was truly heart-wrenching. Many of these people had good educations, had served in the military, had owned homes and businesses, had families. But they lost a job, or experienced accidents or physical or mental health issues that forced them into positions of extreme poverty. Almost all of those who testified were in situations where, with just a little short-term help, they could probably be back as taxpayers, and once again be a positive influence on our communities. There were some who because of physical or mental disabilities may never get back into the work force—but we will never know without giving them an opportunity.

I’m sure that some could find people on the program who are taking advantage of the state, but is that a good enough reason to decimate the program for all? I guess I would have liked to have seen more discussion and hard looks at other options for Minnesotans who have been described as the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick. Discontinuing this program will harm us all; hospitals will not receive funding from the state and will still have to pay for these people’s needs. Several hospital administrators testified, asking legislators to look for other places to balance the budget rather than on the backs of the poor and the hospitals that serve them. Some hospital spokespeople said they would have to close their doors. Regions Hospital and Hennepin County Medical Center will have to turn people away until they are desperately ill.

In more bad health news in February, UCare was unable to continue their contract with the State’s Department of Human Services to maintain the MnDHO program. This has been a very valuable program to the disability community. Axis Healthcare did care coordination under UCare. As a client of this program myself,

I could call my Axis Healthcare care coordinator and get authorization for my needs without having to explain repeatedly why it was necessary for a person with a disability to require whatever it might have been. Well, I and all the MnDHO UCare clients will be stepping back to calling our Medical Assistance coordinators who may or may not have any idea what may be required to maintain good health for someone with our levels of need.

In fact, that was one problem for the MnDHO program—its clients were the highest-need people with severe disabilities, and they were the most costly. The program couldn’t show profit because of the high needs and high expense of the clients. In my opinion, the lack of maintenance care and understanding of the needs of this group will only create more problems and create more costly treatments without the knowledgeable care coordinators at Axis Healthcare.

It’s been hard to find something positive to say, with all this bad news, but the one positive note is that the Minnesota CCD’s “Tuesdays at the capitol” have been well-attended. If you haven’t been to the capitol, please consider taking a trip down there on a Tuesday or contact the disability organization that you’re closest to and ask them when their day at the capitol is. You can also just check the Access Press calendar of events or go to www.AccessPress.org or www.MNCCD.org/ .

Maybe March will go out like a lamb. See you in a month.

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