Monday, August 25, 2008

Just press SEND

As Keith and I attempted to wend our way through the byzantine healthcare system, it rapidly became apparent to us that we were going to need an expert to help us sort through the information and determine whether any of it was good news.

For example, in early July we were told that a representative from the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) would be contacting us in a few weeks to arrange a time to assess Keith's eligibility for their services. We were happily surprised that she actually showed up a few days later, thereby speeding the process. Within 10 minutes of her arrival, it became clear that we were not going to benefit from the standard DADS program because of the stringent requirements of financial need for married couples: $2800/month gross income and no more than $3000 in assets (aside from your home or automobiles). We were disappointed, but not surprised. The DADS agent was very nice and genuinely wanted to help us find a solution. She then told us about the Community Based Alternative program which basically allows you to have the services of an institutional health facility at your own home. We were excited about this option until we learned that there is a 3-5 year waiting period!

Naturally, there's a loophole (apparently there is at least one loophole for every law passed in Texas). You can skip to the head of the line if you are in a facility for 30+ days and get an assessment immediately. Here's the secret password that should be your first words on Day 31: "CBA Bypass". Once those magic words are spoken, you are whisked to the top of the list and an agent conducts a home visit, arrangements are made and, voila, you have the benefits of state support in the comfort of your own home.

Only one problem. It doesn't work that way.

The truth is that you still need to qualify financially for Medicaid. The other more soul-shattering truth is that you have to stay in the nursing home about 6 months before you are considered for the CBA program. Those are two HUGE things to leave out of the conversation.

Both of those truths underscore the unarticulated public policy of impoverishing and marginalizing people with disabilities. To deny access to all the things that make life worth living so that a person might receive moderate support from an uncaring authority is patently un-American. There is no life, no liberty and no pursuit of happiness. We provide more support to visitors to our shores than natural-born productive citizens whose only limitations are physical.

This is a shameful situation and those of us who have the good fortune of physical wholeness have a responsibility to share those abilities to make a difference. I'm not talking about ditching your life and taking on the burdens of others. It's much easier than that. Simply share these stories with others, particularly politicians, social messengers and other market makers. In order to change the world it only takes three steps: copy, paste and just press SEND.

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