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Disability advocates decry proposed changes to health plans

Paul Demko//January 31, 2011

Disability advocates decry proposed changes to health plans

Paul Demko//January 31, 2011

Steve Larson
Steve Larson

Disability activists are denouncing a plan drafted by some of Minnesota’s largest health-insurance providers to save nearly $2 billion through changes to the state’s public health care system.

At a Capitol press conference on Monday, they described the 40-page report as riddled with errors and proposals that would damage services for people with disabilities.

Most notably, disability activists take issue with a plan to enroll individuals who currently receive care through the state’s Medical Assistance (MA) program in health-maintenance organizations.

“The fact that this report reflects such a poor understanding of the MA program for persons with disabilities makes it all the more disturbing that the same people would be proposing to move those with disaiblities into their health plans,” said Steve Larson, public policy director for The Arc of Minnesota. “The arrogance of these misinformed recommendations is stunning and very troubling.”

The proposed changes were outlined in a report, entitled “Advancing Minnesota’s Health System,” that was put together by seven health insurance providers and caregivers, including Blue Cross & Blue Shield, HealthPartners and Medica. Among the other changes suggested: cutting some medical provider rates by five percent and raising taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and soda.

But disability advocates say that they were never consulted on the report and that the changes would create turmoil for many individuals. Nichole Villavicencio was born with a rare joint disorder known as arthrogryposis and is dependent on a wheelchair to get around. She relies on assistance from a personal care attendant in order to manage her life, including a recent part time job in the Secretary of State’s office as a voter outreach worker.

“I am frustrated by the continued cuts to services for citizens with disabilities that have been passed in recent legislative sessions,” said Villavicencio, “and I am nervous about proposals to cut these services further.”

Representatives of the disability community are scheduled to meet with Department of Human Services commissioner Lucinda Jesson on Tuesday morning to discuss their concerns.

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