Should people with disabilities -- no, let's make that "any political supporter" -- be surprised when a politician reneges on a political promise?
Frankly, I do not blame President Obama. He must cater to a myriad of constituencies, and I think in an atmosphere of political and economic neutrality, he would be sign the Community Choice Act of 2009.
The problem lies, I think, with Congress. No matter how progressive, the majority of members are tied to lobbyists and special interest groups with ropes woven from dollars. Representatives and senators need the dollars -- for reelection campaigns, to wield influence themselves, and because of a sense of entitlement.
It is no surprise that those with the least influence (among which are people with disabilities) are able to affect the least amount of action on the part of their so-called representatives.
Washington, D.C. ---Demanding an end to the institutional bias in the nation's health care policy, ADAPT, the nation's largest cross-disability, grassroots disability rights organization, took their fight to the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in Washington, DC, with simultaneous protests at Democratic offices across the country, and at Senator Max Baucus' office in Missoula, MT.
ADAPT is calling for Congress to eliminate the Medicaid institutional bias in 2009 - either in health care reform or as separate legislation, specifically the Community Choice Act (CCA). CCA (S683/HR1670) allows people to choose to stay at home to receive long-term services and supports instead of being forced into nursing homes and institutions because that's what the law will currently pay for.
The protesters are additionally demanding that the Democrats apologize for the loss of freedom suffered by countless Americans that resulted when a Democratically-controlled Congress created the institutional bias over 40 years ago; and that the DNC facilitate an immediate meeting between ADAPT and Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee; Representative Henry Waxman, Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce; and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison, to develop a plan to pass the Community Choice Act and eliminate the institutional bias in 2009.
"For 44 years, Medicaid's institutional bias has stolen the lives of Americans with disabilities and older Americans," said Mike Oxford, ADAPT organizer from Topeka, KS. It has deprived them of their most basic freedoms. The Democrats were in power when that bias was legislated. Now it's time for them to apologize, and most importantly, it's time for them to take action and fix it."
ADAPT's action nationwide comes in part as a response to a video released last week by the Democratic National Committee. The video tells Americans "It's time" for health care reform, and urges them to call their Senators. Picking up on that theme, ADAPT released its own video this week telling the Democrats "It's time" to eliminate the institutional bias and pass the Community Choice Act (http://www.adapt.org/takeaction ).
"The Democrats say they want health care reform to focus on covering more people and saving money," said Cassie James, ADAPT organizer from Philadelphia, "yet they refuse to change the current law that mandates people receive long term care in the most expensive setting rather than less expensively at home where they would rather be. In addition, the current law forces states to go through complicated procedures just to let a few people stay at home and get assistance there."
Many states have no home and community-based services, or they may provide limited services with waiting lists that keep people stuck for years in institutions and nursing facilities before they have any chance of getting services. It is not uncommon for people to wait so long that they die before their name reaches the top of the waiting list.
In an unprecedented show of unity this year, disability and aging groups across the country have demanded that healthcare reform be the vehicle to change federal policy which favors paying for institutions over community based services. They have repeatedly asked Congress and the President to pass the Community Choice Act, but currently, NO proposal in the health care reform package eliminates the institutional bias in Medicaid.
"The Democrats have historically supported the Community Choice Act every time it has been introduced in Congress," said Dawn Russell, an ADAPT organizer from Denver, CO. "Many in the disability community were optimistic that the Democrats would finally pass CCA and eliminate the institutional bias, but the Democratic leadership in Washington is doing absolutely nothing. It seems as though the Democrats are so concerned with political maneuvering that they have completely forgotten about the people they represent who have no voice in Washington."
"ADAPT is concerned about people who right now are stuck in nursing facilities and other institutions. We are concerned about people on Medicaid who will continue to be forced into those places if the law isn't changed. And if the Democratic leadership won't speak up for them, then I will," added Russell.