The 2012 legislative session may have ended by the time you read this. As of right now, there are still discussions about a new Vikings football stadium. I am almost to the point where I don’t even care which way it goes. Let’s just quit talking about stadiums; it’s taking up way too much legislative time and energy.
The Health and Human Services omnibus bill passed and was ceremonially signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton on April 30. Most of the bill is a victory for the disability community, although there are some related issues that we will have to continue to work on in the years to come.
The 20 percent reduction in wages for PCAs caring for a relative was repealed until next July, 2013 which is a victory. We will need to work for permanent repeal of the 20 percent reduction in the following year. With continued pressure, and given the insight of Dayton, Commissioner of Health and Human Services Lucinda Jesson and many of our legislators, there is a good likelihood that we could get this completely repealed. I hope that the PCA fraud unit and Jesson will also research the 20 percent reduction to determine if it would really reduce any significant fraud in the program.
In another provision of the bill, Medical Assistance for Employed People with Disabilities (MA-EPD) has dropped the age limit of 65. Now an individual with a disability can continue working and continue at their higher asset threshold until the person withdraws from the program. This is a huge accomplishment and something that I personally didn’t think would happen this session. A downside is that the income limitations apply after a person quits working. There will have to be a lot of hashing-through to determine how liquid assets will be calculated in combination with income. It’s not certain now how it will all play out and how much the federal government will have to be involved in the final decision-making. I’ve been told by some lobbyists that the income limits will be difficult to get alter because of the overall cost. Also, they’re already talking about a $1 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year, which can’t be good news.
On the really good-news side, Chuck Van Heuveln, the St. Paul Public School employee Access Press has been writing about—and the man who put his neck on the line for legislators to see the devastation the MAEPD limits would cause in real life—won’t lose his pension completely. There is concern that when he quits working, his pension could be considered income (we think). Nevertheless, Chuck is in a much better situation today than he would have been without this legislation. Thank you, Chuck, and all your colleagues and associates that helped to bring this huge issue to the forefront for people to see.
Thank you, too, to Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL–Mankato), for her tenacity on this issue. For those of you who don’t know her, Sheran has been working on this legislation continually for the last six years of her legislative career. Without her insight and ability to convince other legislators that this was the right thing to do, this legislation probably wouldn’t have happened. Of course, nothing at the Capitol happens because of one person alone, so we extend big thanks as well to Dayton, Rep. Jim Abeler (R–Anoka), Senator David Hann (R–Eden Prairie), Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL–St. Paul), and Rep. Terry Morrow (DFL–St. Peter), who also worked vigorously to make this legislation happen and find the financial support to make it reality.
As spring brings thoughts of summer, I hope everyone will take a few moments to write a fall date in your calendar–Nov. 2–for the Charlie Smith award banquet. And more immediately, start thinking about your nominations for the winner of the 2012 award. We’ll be asking for nominations starting next month. Let the newspaper staff or board know if you need accommodations in submitting a nomination.