Editor's Column - November 2011

By the time you read this, Access Press’s annual banquet will once again have taken place, but we’ll have gone to press a couple days before. I’m very excited to share all that happened with you, but it will have to wait until next month. At last count, we were looking forward to about 200 of our readers, advertisers and colleagues joining to honor this year’s award winner, Jeff Bangsberg. The Access Press Charlie Smith award banquet is really growing and becoming a tradition for many. I want to thank our sponsors, our terrific staff, the Board of Directors and all of you for making this the successful event it has become.

Some of you may not know who Charlie Smith was. Charlie was a staunch advocate for disability rights, and he was the founder of Access Press. As an advocate, there is no one single famous thing that Charlie did, but his fingerprints are on much of Minnesota’s disability legislation from the early 1980s to his death in 2001. Charlie was a very low-key kind of guy who never wanted to take the limelight, and he would most often give the credit due him to someone else. He was a kind, loyal friend to all of us who knew him. As founder of Access Press he worked hard along with his parents and many other who contributed time and resources to make the paper a success. Access Press’s first issue was in 1991 (it proudly shares its birthday with the Americans with Disabilities Act). It was a struggle in the early 1990s building the foundation for a newspaper for our community. But Charlie made sure that the paper successfully documented many great strides in the Minnesota disability rights movement.

On the current legislative front, the 2011 session mandated that people with disabilities under age 65 who have Medical Assistance fee-for-service coverage will, on January 1, 2012, be enrolled in a Special Needs Basic Care (SNBC) health plan for their health care. However, anyone who wants fee-for-service can opt out of an SNBC and can stay in fee-for-service. We have learned that the SNBC plans are for health services only and they do not contract with personal care attendant (PCA) agencies. Anyone who is worried about losing their PCA by enrolling in a health plan should be reassured that is not the case. One of the services that will be available in the SNBC is care coordination, and if you don’t need that, there is no obligation to go with an SNBC. There are many pros and cons and we plan to weed those out and report on them before you are required to make this decision.

At the close of this year’s special session, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law that reduced medical assistance reimbursement to home care agencies by 20% for services their employees provide to people who have mental and physical disabilities if the employees are related to the clients. The law went into effect on Oct. 1, but a Ramsey County District Court judge has put a hold on the 20% reduction in pay. This is a step in the right direction, but certainly not a real fix. The Department of Human Services has data from a provider survey early in 2011 indicating that 31% of Personal Care Provider Program recipients received care from a PCA who was a relative. I hope that Gov. Dayton will follow through on his comment earlier this summer at the state fair about this piece of legislation, when he said he didn’t think the 20% reduction was a good idea.

If a special session is held this month for the Vikings stadium, I think it would be the perfect time to change this legislation. I continue to believe that it must be against employment law to pay one person 20% less for doing the same job as others. Haven’t women’s and other civil rights movements been concerned about equal pay for equal work? Isn’t it one of our basic goals in the disability rights movement to achieve equal employment opportunities, equal work and equal pay in all areas of our community? I don’t have a relative working as a PCA, but if I did I wouldn’t expect them to provide care for me at a discount.

Oh, by the way. The snow’s coming. Stay warm and safe.

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1 Comment

  1. Enjoyed the Charlie Award dinner and I think the best one yet. A fun way to honor a special person but really honors all who are supporters of those with disabilities.. During the next year, all who were there think about that one or maybe two persons who could benefit from the information that is being provided by Access Press and invite them to join you-you never know, they may be the Charlie Award winner of the future. Congrats to all the hard workers,the sponsors and friends of Access Press!

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