Disability Issues At Center Of Heated Health Care Debate
Advocacy groups and White House officials are fighting back after Sarah Palin and other critics recently charged that proposed health care reform would be bad for people with disabilities.
Last week, Palin said on her Facebook page that the government would “ration care” for those with disabilities under the reform plan proposed in Congress. Palin went on to suggest that under the plan the elderly and people with disabilities, like her son who has Down syndrome, would “have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide… whether they are worthy of health care.”
Soon after, a Michigan man made headlines when he confronted Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., at a raucous town hall meeting to allege that his son with cerebral palsy “would be given no care whatsoever” under the health care reform plan.
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“That simply is not true,” says Mike Strautmanis, a White House staffer whose son has autism. In a new video posted on the White House Web site Strautmanis talks directly to people with disabilities and their families, saying that contrary to rumors out there, health reform will be beneficial for people with disabilities. The plan would ensure that individuals won’t be denied insurance coverage because of any pre-existing condition and it would expand access to Medicaid, Strautmanis says.
Meanwhile, some of the nation’s top disability advocacy groups are also pushing back. United Cerebral Palsy announced its endorsement of the health care reform bill this week. And, in a weekly email to members, The Arc’s executive director Peter Berns asked members to “dispel the growing number of myths” about health care reform.
In addition to the arguments Strautmanis made, Berns said people with disabilities should also be happy that the proposed legislation would increase doctor reimbursement levels for services covered under Medicaid, eliminate all annual and lifetime caps on coverage and create a long-term care insurance program.
Nonetheless, critics continue to impact the debate. The top republican on the Senate finance committee, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Thursday that that committee will not include an end-of-life provision which led to talk of a “death panel” because of the way it could be “misinterpreted and implemented incorrectly.”