Just after the recent mid-term elections an op-ed appeared in my local paper. State Senator David Thomas (R) of Greenville, South Carolina wrote in The Greenville News about seven suggestions he would present to our newly elected governor (Nikki Haley – more about her in moment) and eventually the entire state legislature to reduce the state’s budget. Just like the rest of the United States, the Palmetto State faces some difficult economic woes with the financial road ahead full of some pretty intense obstacles. Certainly I do not envy the job our elected leaders face in the coming months during the budgetary process.
For the most part the seven point manifesto presented by Mr. Thomas held little for me to disagree with if you consider the fact that 6 out of those 7 items I found absolutely nothing wrong. However the one exception was absolutely huge given that it was listed second. Here is that particular section verbatim:
(2) End participation in the federal Medicaid system: This issue is also budgetary. Obamacare will be requiring more Medicaid mandates under the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services, which some have estimated will cost the state over a billion dollars in new expenses.
South Carolina and the other 49 states do not “have” to take the Medicaid money. We can refuse to participate in the federal Medicaid system.
This may seem radical, but why should it?
South Carolina now receives a three to one federal match for such Medicaid services. It would be possible to take our part of the formula, drastically reducing the size of the Department of Health and Human Services, and create (either state run or by contract) a bare bones insurance program for the indigent in our state, replacing the current system. The state of Texas is currently studying this very same proposal.
Consideration of this idea should be immediately undertaken by our new governor and both bodies of the South Carolina Legislature. I have forwarded this request for analysis to Gov.-elect Nikki Haley and the chairs of the respective budgetary committees in the Legislature.
If you need a moment to digest this then please do so now. Take your time to truly understand what Mr. Thomas is suggesting because the idea of slashing funds to Medicaid programs across the country is going to be one of the first places state governments are going to look toward in reducing state expenditures.
I have exchanged some e-mails with our founder, Christina Shaver. She totally understands where I’m coming from and as a Hopeful Parent, you should as well. The following is once again a “word for word” reply I sent Christina after she encouraged me to write about it and after I actually spoke to Mr. Thomas on the phone:
I am very obsessive-compulsive particularly about things I'm passionate about. This issue has shaken me up a bit, particularly after having the chat this morning. I found it not so ironic that Medicare cuts weren't mentioned. My personal feeling is that nationwide, legislators are going to go after the most vulnerable because they can get away with it. Let's face it - special needs parents generally aren't the most outspoken when it comes to issues affecting us. The mentality is that we’re just thankful for what we get, when we get, or if we get it. In South Carolina there is a "frozen" waiting list for waivers that totals over 3500. I have even heard of a number closer to 5000. I also know via a local advocacy group that many parents waiting "in line" don't want to make waves for fear that they get pushed back on the list.
Back to the Medicare issue. You know exactly what would happen if you messed with cutting funding to the old folks. They formed the bulk of the Tea Party movement during the health care reform days last year. They are an informed group and mobilize very fast if their Medicare is even rumored to be affected. And as Senator Thomas asked me this morning, "So are you suggesting we raise taxes?" For him that is political suicide. Which begs the question where are legislators going to make those painful cuts? They'll continue to freeze waiver rolls and deny even more services to us.
Quite frankly, I'm just a bit scared. I guess Stephen Colbert was more successful than Jon Stewart. States don't care about ADA or Olmstead in this economic climate. We've got to somehow make them just as scared of us as they are the AARP.
I have found out that the 5000 figure is the truer figure here in South Carolina. In my neck of the woods what I have suggested is already starting to play out. Indeed I had a conversation with David Thomas and it was like water over a duck’s back. He promised a home visit to see our living situation and has yet to come through - I am not holding my breath.
Our new governor, Nikki Haley, has gone on record saying that non-profits and corporations can do a better job raising money toward services Medicaid provides. It disturbs me that anyone could actually believe this given our economic climate. It disturbs me even more that this particular person now governs our state.
This is probably the hardest thing we Hopeful Parents do – advocate. Yes, I am thankful for all the services we receive for Ben via Medicaid but it is not enough! The Federal government has guaranteed that our children cannot be discriminated against via the Americans with Disabilities Act. Even further, the Olmstead Decision has given parents the RIGHT to care for their children at home rather than an institution.
Hard choices are ahead for folks like David Thomas and Nikki Haley. As I said I don’t want their jobs but they chose to take on the responsibilities presented to them long before they took office. We as parents, care-givers, loved ones of exceptional children cannot allow these privileged individuals to take away what our children deserve or what is actually entitled to them.
All of us at HP are aware of how difficult your lives are. After all that is why you arrived here. Unfortunately we are still very much in an economic crisis and we all need to work together to make our voices heard. All we ask is that you become familiar with your state and federal representatives. After that write a letter telling your representatives your needs and opinions. If you have the opportunity, call them. If you’re uncertain about what to say or how to word your correspondence then visit our forum. In fact that is an excellent place to begin! Like many other organizations we will help you construct what you want or need to say.
Generally speaking, when folks discuss politics (or religion for that matter) you can bet that there will be disagreements. However all of us here at Hopeful Parent can 100 percent agree that all we desire is the best from our elected officials in supporting those of us caring for a special needs loved one. Our kids deserve even more.
Bennie usually blogs about more pleasant things at A Work of Art: Raising Our Exceptional Son.