“I never thought I’d be disabled,” the man at the parade told me. “I was a diesel truck driver. But a split second accident and 37 surgeries later here I am.”
An axle crushed his leg.
Last week I met a fellow whose foot had been run over by a cement truck. Like me, he was hobbling around the dairy breakfast on crutches. “You never know when accidents are going to happen.” he said.
At an event in Eau Claire a woman stopped me to ask about budget cuts for the disabled. She had many stories to tell me about the effects of budget cuts on her disabled clients.
Unless you have a disabled friend or family member it is easy to think of the challenges they face as “someone else’s problem.” But, in truth, we are all one bad day away from facing the world with a disability. We are all one bad accident away from needing the services provided by the state’s Medicaid program.
The state Medicaid program is huge; providing care to those in nursing homes, the blind and disabled and health insurance for hundreds of thousands of children and their parents on BadgerCare. One out of every five citizens in Wisconsin benefits from the program; in many cases their very lives depend on programs and services provided through Medicaid.
Of the $3 billion cut in funding to state agencies and many programs, a portion had to come from the Department of Health. Department officials looked at many different ideas to reduce Medicaid spending.
Family Care, a Medicaid program that serves the elderly and disabled, was required to make cuts. Two ‘Managed Care Organizations’ provide services to citizens in our area. It was the cuts made by these organizations -to help balance the state budget - that concerned the Eau Claire woman.
She advocated for an audit of the Family Care program - agreeing with me that an audit might show problems and possible efficiencies to be gained in the program. It is critical in these tight budget times to review how we spend every tax dollar.
The Joint Audit Committee is tentatively scheduled to meet July 14th to consider such an audit and I invited the woman to come to Madison and testify before the committee. I explained her input is very important. She can help the Audit Bureau staff understand the problems and what solutions might be possible.
Begun back in 1999 as a pilot program in four counties, including La Crosse, Family Care was a way to restructure Wisconsin’s care for the elderly, physically and developmentally disabled. The idea was to use ‘managed care organizations’ as a way to coordinate services for clients - providing the services people needed and the ability for people to stay in their homes as long as possible.
In recent years, the program has expanded to cover most of Western Wisconsin. But with the expansion comes complaints from many that the program is inefficient, duplicates local services and fails to adequately address the needs of clients.
Like all public hearings, anyone can testify at the hearing. For those unable to travel, you can submit written testimony, which I will deliver to all of the committee members. If you are interested in learning more about the program or the upcoming hearing, please feel free to give me a call (877-763-6636 toll free in Madison).