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Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Medicaid Spring" - Broken Promises and Maine's Budget Cuts

Maine's Governor LePage and his administration supports cuts to the state's Medicaid program (MaineCare) by proposing to remove 65,000 people, in a state with only 1.3 million population, from coverage. Maine Care provides the money to care for low income, mentally ill, disabled and elderly people. The 65,000 people proposed to be cut are those who are single and receiving Maine Care benefits.

In other words, the cuts will include the seriously and persistently mentally ill living in rehabilitation group homes, the homeless, the severely disabled and elderly living alone. The cuts will also remove the thousands of jobs associated with care for these vulnerable populations.

Maine Care provider groups report that Governor LePage's cuts will affect every family and every community in Maine, putting at risk the public health, public safety and the state's economy, by pulling out millions of federal dollars needed to care for the beneficiaries.  These cuts will be shifted to stretched thin charity care systems and more expensive hospital care, or, the needy people will simply go without.

Governor LePage says more Maine people receive Maine Care than the number who file income tax.

Well, sure, Maine is a poor state and the oldest state in the nation.  People are poor and old.

But here's a better fact: removing 65,000 people from Maine Care, because they're categorized as single, with little regard for their status as frail elderly, seriously disabled or mentally ill, also cuts into a margin of voters who could be enough to swing the result of any Maine election (presuming, or course, they all vote).

Not identifying who these people are, but simply writing their numbers on a flip chart for newspaper photos or television cameras, helps reinforce the idea that they're not really human beings, but just numbers that soak up Maine Care dollars.

Maine Care beneficiaries are, tragically, the brunt of one budget cut after another, a situation that stereotypes the program as somehow being wasteful.  Every time the state needs to balance the budget, the legislators and administration zero in on the largest target they can focus on - Maine Care.  The program is now cut to the absolute minimum, any more will seriously impact the quality of the programs covered.

Beneficiaries of Maine Care, on the other hand, live in a state of fear that the next letter from the Department of Health and Human Services will be the one that removes them from the program.

Moreover, average people don't understand that state's aren't alone in paying the the cost of people on Medicaid.  Federal dollars match by $3-1 the cost of the program.  In other words, if shipbuilder Bath Iron Works asked Maine for $1 tax dollar to attract $3 federal to fund building a destroyer, what do you think the response would be?  Medicaid is the same, only the $1 state dollar is spent for the poor rather than to build a defense project.

So, I say, it's time for a Medicaid Spring.  With income disparity in the US and around the world driving political unrest, and with Time Magazine's person of the year being "the protester", then it's time people who are the brunt of stereotyping to respond with their own "Spring".

Medicaid beneficiaries should take up social networking and, most important, register to vote, to remove from office, the powerful people who write numbers on flip charts to show the media how much they know, without demonstrating compassion for the people behind the numbers.    

Particularly at risk in removing 65,000 Maine Care beneficiaries are the mentally ill, who work emotionally hard with their caregivers, in supportive residential treatment programs, to achieve a level of mental wellness.  Pulling the rug out from this population by removing their group home support systems is another boot to the mentally ill, who never realized the promises made to create safe community care systems post institutionalization. But, the mentally ill are voters who need to consider this electorate power very seriously. They are among the margin of voters who can make a collective difference in the next Maine election.

In America, the metaphoric equivalent of an "Arab Spring" occurs every time we hold an election.  For those who advocate to continue cutting Maine Care, the number 65,000 written on  a flip chart can be enough to Spring you out of office.









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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Lancet - Championing Good Health for People With Disabilities

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)61825-4/fulltext?rss=yes

"There has been a move away from the medical model of disability towards the social model; with the spotlight on how societal barriers disable individuals, the health of disabled people has received insufficient attention and investment."

Unfortunately, disabilities can lead to chronic ill health. This article link from the Journal "The Lancet" calls for more attention and resources to be made available to help people with disabilities to maximize their abilities and efforts toward social and medical wellness.

The Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness supports educational programs to teach communities in schools and workplaces about how all people can be supported to lead productive lives, regardless of disabilities, whether they are physical, emotional, learned, acquired or inherited. 

Upcoming programs for 3rd & 4th graders at the Breakwater School in Portland, and for children, and parents at the Small Elementary School in South Portland, will teach and emphasize our mission!

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Saturday, December 03, 2011

Newt Gingrich and the Harvard Medical School Lab - According to Mark Shields

"....if Newt Gingrich is the nominee, Barack Obama will coast to a second term...Because, it will be all about Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich -- Newt Gingrich is such a flawed vessel and such a flawed candidate. He has more skeletons than the Harvard Medical School lab does...."
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec11/sandb_12-02.html

Ahhhh, punditry!

Wonderful quote from pundit Mark Shields on the Friday night (Dec. 2nd) News Hour, with Jim Lehrer, who moderated a discussion on the show's commentary segment, "Shields and Brooks".

"Skeletons" are a metaphor Shields used to describe New Gingrich, a flawed candidate, a man who knows how to steal a political "Christmas" from the grasp of his Republican presidential "wanna-bees", but unable to live up to the appeal of Santa Claus, who was a man who cared about the welfare of others.

Gingrich is more than flawed when comparing his moral character with President Obama's, especially if the inquiring news reporters will pursue a discussion of the former House speaker's admitted infidelities with his current and past wives.

If candidate Mitt Romney is unable to garner the Republican presidential nomination, in competition with Newt Gingrich, then the presidential race 2012 will be about Newt Gingrich as a flawed candidate.  It will be a presidential campaign about character rather than substance.

If Christian RWE-RWEs (rightwingextremists) sincerely believe morality is more important in a president than intellect and political prowess, then they should start the voting line today in support of President Obama's second term.

On the other hand, if morality truly is the key ingredient to making RWE-RWEs politically satisfied, then they need to warm up to Mitt Romney, because he can stand toe to toe with President Obama to pass the morality litmus test, regardless of his many politically flip-flopped opinions.

Skeletons are good teaching tools, but when Harvard and other medical school students need experience, they need to work on real people.  Is Newt Gingrich a champion of "real people" or a political opportunist?

For example, real people should realize how Gingrich's opinions on child labor are scary, especially because a foot in the door on this issue will lead to exploitation.  If  Mr. Gingrich wants to employ idle children who have no role models, so as  to teach them work ethics, then he needs to support more programs for Head Start, and educational initiatives, to keep poor and inner city children in school, through college.

Caring people don't discuss divorce with their wife while she's recovering from surgery, either. (I hesitate using this story because it's so incendiary, but well documented.)  "she was recovering from surgery to remove a tumor, and the former House speaker admits that they 'got into an argument'." http://factcheck.org/2011/12/the-gingrich-divorce-myth/

In the same New Hour segment, Mr. Shields says a presidential campaign about Newt Gingrich and his character will be bad for our country, because the issues will be overshadowed by character judgments.

So, as I see it, the GOP presidential primary is about how much Christian conservatives can compromise with their own very high bar regarding who is qualified for American leadership.

Maybe Christian conservatives need to examine an actual laboratory human skeleton, so they can learn to realize how every human structural support system is flawed at the bones.

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