Archive for February, 2011

Wisconsin’s Budget Repair Bill Threatens Health Care for Vulnerable Residents

Posted by on February 25th, 2011 at 1:34 pm | 3 Comments »

This is a guest post by Mike Bachhuber, Executive Director of the Independent Living Council of Wisconsin.

Update (3/23/2011):  The Senate version of the “Budget Repair Bill,” SB-11, failed due to Constitutionally required procedures.  The Senate did not have enough members present since the 14 Democratic Senators exercised a “walking veto.”

The lower house did pass a similar bill.  This bill was amended and passed by the Wisconsin Senate on March 9. It was passed by the Assembly the following day and signed by Gov. Walker on March 11.  The bill was passed largely on party line votes.

At least two law suits contend that the procedures followed were not legal.  A court has ruled in one suit to prevent the bill from being published and going into effect as of March 22.

The enacted version of the Bill still transfers authority to make changes to medical assistance from the Legislature to the Secretary of Health Services.  However, it now requires the Secretary to use regular administrative procedures to change the program.  These procedures require a public hearing, usually before the changes would go into effect.  They also allow the Legislature to block the rule.  In addition, the special authority and any rules changing the program will expire January 1, 2015.

Original Post: Senate Bill 11, Wisconsin’s “Budget Repair Bill” gives government officials power to change health care available to the state’s low-income residents without public opportunity for input.  The legislature has held this power since the beginning of the program.

State statutes provide most of the details for BadgerCare, the state’s federally-supported “medical assistance” program.  Until now, these statutes have defined details such as:

  • Which people needing care are eligible;
  • Types of care available to them;
  • How care providers are paid and
  • What people needing care must pay.

Continue reading »

Turmoil in Wisconsin: How Governor Walker’s Proposal Impacts Families and Consumers

Posted by on February 25th, 2011 at 1:23 pm | 5 Comments »

Tracy Dudzinski

You’ve probably heard about the turmoil going on here in Wisconsin, but most of the talk about our budget repair bill is being focused on collective bargaining rights. There are other things buried in the bill that scare the heck out of me, but hardly anyone is talking about them.

A provision in the repair bill would allow the Secretary of the Department of Health services to make changes to the Wisconsin Medicaid program without going to the full legislature. This is clearly a ploy to make it easier for the new governor to make cuts in the program without risking being voted down by legislators who think some or all of the proposed cuts are too drastic. The changes that could take place might be changes in eligibility guidelines, increased premiums and increased co-pays. Any one of those could be devastating to my family.

My husband and daughter are insulin-dependent diabetics. They are both on Badger Care (Wisconsin Medicaid), since I am the only member of my family who can work. I work 40-plus hours a week, but my direct care worker salary is not enough to pay the premiums for a family health insurance plan, let alone the co-pays and deductibles. If we lost our Badger Care, I am not sure what we would do. We would not be able to afford the insulin they need to inject so they can live. I suppose we would have to choose between getting their life-saving insulin and having a roof over our head, since there’s nothing else we can cut out of our already bare-bones budget.

There are a lot of us hard-working low-income people who cannot afford to buy health insurance – including probably the majority of the direct care workers I know. Some of them have more than one job and work part-time at each, or they work in home care and can’t rely on getting full-time caseloads most weeks, so they’re not offered the option to buy health insurance even if one of their employers has it. And for those of us fortunate enough to get steady full-time work, the insurance is so expensive we usually can’t afford it.

We’re already hanging on by a financial thread, so any change that made Badger Care less accessible would leave a lot of us stranded. If the state raises the income limit for participation to disqualify more of us, we’ll be left without insurance. If Badger Care premiums or co-pays are increased, we might not be able to pay for the gas we need to get to work. Some people would probably work fewer hours on purpose so they can qualify for coverage again, making them even poorer and making it harder for their clients to get the care they need. It is a vicious circle.

I am also worried for the people who are served by my home care company. What will happen to them? The people we care for, who are also Medicaid recipients, are already under-served. They are making it, but just barely. If the services they receive are cut or decreased, some might have to go without a bath, without grocery shopping, without transportation to doctor appointments. Will they die at home with no one to help? Continue reading »

Why Did I Get Credentialed? Respect, Opportunities & Professionalism!

Posted by on February 22nd, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Comments Off on Why Did I Get Credentialed? Respect, Opportunities & Professionalism!

Jimmie Chandler, Gov. Baldacci and Ted Rippy

As one of the first direct care workers in the country to become a Credentialed Personal Care & Support Professional, I am thrilled to be part of the movement to improve the quality of care and strengthen the direct care workforce. I’ve been a direct care worker for more than 22 years, and it is discouraging to not get recognition for how much work goes into the job. So many of us come into this field without knowing how many skills and talents it takes to provide the services our consumers need; we are required to develop a deep knowledge of personal assistance work right away, and over the years that knowledge grows tremendously.

The DCA Personal Care and Support Credential recognizes me as a competent, experienced personal assistance worker. The credential is nationally recognized and I can take it with me wherever I go. It was a challenging but logical exam; as I took it, I was able to think back on all of the work I’ve done with my consumer over the years and apply that to the exam. It really did test for the competencies we need to do our jobs well; I felt like the exam was written for me. Continue reading »

Poems by Direct Care Workers: A pretty good field trip

Posted by on February 22nd, 2011 at 11:53 am | Comments Off on Poems by Direct Care Workers: A pretty good field trip

David Moreau

Ellie and I take Donnie, Leo, Noelle and Roland

to the college for the noon day concert.

We get there early and walk around the pond

and the ducks swim toward us looking for bread.

All we give them is a song, The one little duck

with the feather on his back, he led the others

with a quack, quack, quack.

There’s a group coming from the other direction

and they’re like a mirror image of  us –

a friendly young man with downs syndrome

high fives Donnie, two staff push people

in wheelchairs, an elderly man shuffles and repeats,

Warm, warm, and a tiny woman holding up a yellow purse

beams, I got it at the Christmas Tree Shop.

The staff don’t shout, remember circles,

but greet us with where you from?

And  beautiful day, eh? Everyone gets to talk

and I don’t hear anyone telling anyone else

what’s appropriate and what’s not.

After a couple of minutes we negotiate four people

in wheelchairs passing on the sidewalk, wave

and say, see ya. Continue reading »

Wisconsin Investing in People Living with Disabilities

Posted by on February 14th, 2011 at 10:49 am | Comments Off on Wisconsin Investing in People Living with Disabilities

Tracy Dudzinski

The Wisconsin Direct Caregiver Alliance is working together with the Survival Coalition to bring direct care workforce issues to light. WIDCA has a seat at the table with the Survival Coalition, and we were invited to a statewide disability summit. The summit was a daylong event where we talked about what we hoped could be accomplished if we had all constituents – workers, employers, people living with disabilities, their families and other allies – working together.

That day, the Survival Coalition created papers geared towards inspiring action and making recommendations to strengthen the workforce and provide opportunities for people living with disabilities to maintain their autonomy and remain active in their communities. From the introduction:

“People living with disabilities are much less likely to be part of the labor force and this group is disproportionately impacted by the recent recession. According to the Department of Health Services, only 6 percent of Family Care members who want to work are working in integrated settings in the community, even though studies in Wisconsin show supported employment services are more cost effective than facility-based services. Good jobs in the community are not only possible, they are good for Wisconsin.”

Continue reading »

DCA Launches Personal Care and Support Credential

Posted by on February 7th, 2011 at 1:58 pm | 5 Comments »

Vera Salter

I am thrilled to announce the launch of the Direct Care Alliance Personal Care and Support Professional Credential, a competency-based test that will help improve the quality of long-term care for the elderly and people living with disabilities who depend on personal assistance workers to maintain their autonomy and quality of life.

The credential comes at a pivotal time, as more than 10,000 Baby Boomers reach retirement age each day.  But while the demand for direct care continues to rise, there aren’t enough qualified workers to meet the need.

The credential for personal assistance workers will help professionalize the direct care workforce by: 1) providing elders, people with disabilities and their families with a reliable way to assess the knowledge of those they hire; 2) giving agency employers a customer-centered assessment tool; 3) establishing a national standard for state policy makers; and 4) allowing workers in this field to demonstrate their professionalism and skill.

“Employees of Home Care for Maine go through rigorous training and the state’s mandated curriculum. But there’s no national recognition for their expertise. This credential demonstrates that our staff is qualified, knowledgeable and meets industry standards – giving great benefit to people we serve and our agency a competitive advantage,” said registered nurse Mollie Baldwin, CEO of Home Care for Maine. Continue reading »

Direct Care Workers Essential to Recovery of Gabrielle Giffords

Posted by on February 7th, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Comments Off on Direct Care Workers Essential to Recovery of Gabrielle Giffords

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

On behalf of the direct care workers of Arizona I want to wish Gabrielle Giffords a full recovery from her traumatic brain injury. We also ask her direct care workers at TIRR Memorial Hospital in Houston to bring an extra measure of patience for our wonderful Congresswoman and friend. We know just how difficult their work can be as they offer therapy and care to any person suffering a traumatic brain injury. There are so many different outcomes for patients following brain injuries. Many people for extended periods of time lose their ability to speak or to fully understand others or to be understood themselves. Other people for some time lose memories and for some there are personality changes. We have already heard some stories about Gabrielle recognizing friends and relating to the family surrounding her. We are buoyed. We are thankful for these positive signs. Relating to people was always one of Gabrielle’s strengths and far too often a traumatic brain injury can change people. We have to believe that Gabrielle will regain her great gift of relating. Full recovery will truly be a miracle and we hope and pray she is successful with the wonderful help given her. It may be a little selfish on our part but we also hope that this tragedy helps people change how they relate to those different from themselves. We in Tucson are already seeing so many positive changes growing out of this calamity.

We know that hundreds of direct care workers will help thousands of persons this year who suffer similar types of brain injuries. These workers as well as millions of other direct care workers will exercise their compassion, patience and skills to help injured and frail people regain their quality of life. Little things can be so difficult for these patients. Too, too often, others not as fortunate as Gabrielle will always need help buttoning a sweater or brushing their hair or even getting out of bed. Continue reading »

President Obama Addresses Key DCA Issues in State of the Union

Posted by on February 1st, 2011 at 9:56 am | Comments Off on President Obama Addresses Key DCA Issues in State of the Union

Leonila Vega

In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, President Obama touched on two key issues for the Direct Care Alliance: rebuilding the economy and improving care. I commend him for his leadership and efforts on both these fronts and we are working with our grassroots network, allies and policymakers to demonstrate the key role that direct care workers can play in achieving these goals in 2011 and beyond.

Despite declaring job creation as his top priority for 2010, there is still much work to be done. Unemployment rates are still well over 9% and there is no question the slow economic recovery has taken a toll on most communities. There’s a lot that the Administration can do to help create jobs but very little would do more to strengthen our communities than investments in direct care jobs. Currently, more than 13 million Americans depend on the care and support of direct care workers every day. Direct care jobs:

  •   Are non-exportable.
  •   Are in high demand, and projected to be one of the fastest growing jobs over the next decade.
  •   Support the autonomy, dignity and well-being of individuals with long-term care needs.
  •   Eliminate a loss in economic productivity by people who miss work due to the lack of availability of long-term supports and services.

Continue reading »