Let’s say you have a job. You have a deadline in which you must get the work done. You hear from a lot of people who depend on you to do your job. You have resources to get that job done. In fact, you have more resources than you have ever had before.
But you don’t like your coworkers. So nothing gets done. A last-minute scramble is to no avail for much of your work. And then you blame each other and you go home.
2022 was another “the dog ate my homework” legislative session in Minnesota. Many proposals important to Minnesotans with disabilities were left unfinished, to the detriment of those seeking action.
While we wait to see if a special session is held this summer, we must take issue with what didn’t get done during the regular session.
We in Minnesota’s disability community do have some accomplishments to call out, and kudos for those who had to work during what was a very trying session. We’re very happy to have seen key gains in mental health and a few other areas. We’re especially pleased to have seen action on broadband, which is a big need for Greater Minnesota residents with disabilities.
But so much was left unfinished at the end of the regular session. And with more than $7 billion in state surplus dollars that could have been used to meet a number of needs, that was just wrong on everyone’s part.
The effects on inaction are already being felt. Here’s one example:
About 100 non-emergency medical transportation providers have already told Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) officials that they might not pick up Medicaid passengers starting June 1.
Rates paid to these companies are set by state law. Without action this session, there was no way to address high gas prices and other rising costs. Many companies are now focusing on providing rides for private pay insurance clients and not those who rely on Medicaid. They really have no choice when the state-set rates aren’t enough to cover costs.
The Senate proposed a 17 percent rate increase. But nothing got through the House and Senate by session’s end.
DHS is working to rectify the situation so that people on Medicaid can get to their medical appointments, and trying to determine how many companies will drop service to Medicaid clients. Without action by state lawmakers, DHS’s hands are tied.
That’s just one example. We didn’t see needed action on accessible, affordable housing. We didn’t see a bonding bill, so plans for the state academies, state hospitals and accessibility needs for a wide range of facilities were left on the drawing boards. And this was supposed to be a bonding bill session!
We didn’t see anything happen on PCA services. We didn’t see needed changes for special education and for school mental health. We didn’t see needed changes on the spend-downs that keep too many Minnesotans mired in poverty. We didn’t see needed changes in Medical Assistance for Employed People with Disabilities or MA-EPD.
We look at some much undone and all we can say is, really? What happened? Was it too much money to make decisions on? Too much arguing? Too much waiting until the last minute?
This is not just posturing and pontificating on our part. These are our lives that are affected when nothing gets done. These are the supports and services that keep us in our home communities, with our friends and families, and in our workplaces. These are the changes that could help beleaguered families whose loved ones have had to move home or into facilities that lack adequate staff. These are the changes that could make school easier for children and young people.
Changes large and small can transform lives. But they need policymakers’ support to happen. Must we go another year without changes that could make our lives and the lives of our family members a little easier? Really?