Congress Must Care for Care Workers

BY KARLA J STRAND: For Complete Post, click here…

The U.S. Congress is at a critical juncture in the negotiations on the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. The original proposal was for $3.5 trillion in new spending—paid for by tax increases on corporations and those making more than $400,000 annually—aimed at improving infrastructure. Of this, $450 billion was earmarked for an increase in Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS). 

These services, such as meal delivery, respite, and other care services, are essential to improving the lives of people with disabilities, those who are aging, and their care providers. But after mostly leaving the fray to moderate and progressive Democrats to battle out a compromise, President Joe Biden unveiled an updated outline for the bill on October 19. Bowing to centrist concerns, Biden’s version of the plan is now down to between $1.75 trillion and $1.9 trillion, and the cuts have caregivers (and receivers) concerned. 

Since February, progressive Democratic legislators have been pushing Biden to make good on his campaign promise to increase Medicaid funding for HCBS. In March, Senators Maggie Hassan, Democrat of New Hampshire; Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio; and Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania; and Representative Debbie Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, introduced the Home and Community-Based Services Access Act.

Within weeks, Representatives Dingell; Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts; Conor Lamb, Democrat of Pennsylvania; and Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, sent Biden a letter signed by 107 of their colleagues calling for the $450 billion investment in these service to be added to the Build Back Better infrastructure package.

Following the Senate vote, more than forty-five national disability organizations sent a plea to House and Senate leadership further explaining the imperative of full funding. Unfortunately, last month the House committees with purview over Medicare—Ways & Means and Energy & Commerce—endorsed increasing Medicaid HCBS funding by only $190 billion instead of the $400 billion advocated by caregivers and progressive legislators. 


That proposed $210 billion cut is not inconsequential: It could be the difference between whether more people are able to receive life-saving medical treatment or not.  

Registration: Effective Communication with School During COVID-19

Fri, Oct 29, 2021 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT

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Join Michigan Alliance for Families for “Effective Communication with School During COVID-19” with SEMS (Special Education Mediation Services).

Communication and collaboration in special education are uniquely challenging. The pandemic is another layer that has impacted communication. Join SEMS for this online workshop to discuss what we know about effective communication. We’ll look at how the pandemic has changed family and school relationships.

• Share effective communication tips to improve collaboration and partnerships
• Consider how the Covid 19 pandemic impacted communication and collaboration
• Reflect on what we learned from the pandemic that can inform our learning environments moving forward with this a once in a lifetime opportunity to embark upon a new path to improved student success.

If you need an accommodation to attend this event, please send your request to info@michiganallianceforfamilies.org two weeks prior to the event.

Lansing Schools triage solutions to special ed ‘emergency’

BY KYLE KAMINSKI: For Complete Post, click here…

Record backlog pushes district out of state compliance — and into overdrive.

After only about three months on the job, Superintendent Ben Shuldiner said he has identified three “emergency issues” facing students and staff at the Lansing School District this year. The obvious first is the COVID-19 pandemic. The second is a major shortage of bus drivers, he said.

And the third is a backlog of hundreds of written evaluations for the district’s nearly 2,000 special education students — a problem that has brewed for several years and came to a head after the state put the district into corrective action mode in 2020, district and state officials said.

“I’ll try to be brutally honest. The Lansing School District has not served its special education population well, to put it bluntly. For years, there were specific things that were not done — and this was stuff that was just not acceptable,” Shuldiner told the Lansing City Council last month.

The Michigan Department of Education requires public school districts to complete initial evaluations within 30 days for all special education students in need of an individualized education program — or IEP. Those written plans help to tailor instruction for students with learning disabilities, emotional disorders, cognitive challenges and many other impairments.

When Shuldiner arrived in July, at least 158 of those evaluations had not been completed on time for what amounted to 9% of the district’s total population of special education students — pushing the district into what the Department of Education defines as “corrective action” mode.

Spanning all grade levels, those late evaluations could have led to a wide range of state consequences if left unchecked. Under state law, the district could lose authority to operate special education programs altogether if the issues persisted. It could also lead to state and federal funds being withheld or warrant direct intervention from state officials.

News on No-Fault: DIFS Bulletin addressing reimbursement limitations to certain products, services and accommodations

From CPAN: For Complete Post, click here…

On October 11, 2021, the Director of the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (“DIFS”) issued Bulletin 2021-38-INS addressing the applicability of the reimbursement limitations set forth in MCL 500.3157 to certain products, services and accommodations that constitute “[a]llowable expenses” under MCL 500.3107(1)(a).  Specifically, in the Bulletin, DIFS opined that “[p]roducts, services, and accommodations that are not provided by physicians, hospitals, clinics, or other like persons . . .” are not subject to the reimbursement limitations set forth in MCL 500.3157.   In the Bulletin, DIFS also expressed its view that MCL 500.3157 “governs the amount payable to any persons providing attendant care” services to auto accident survivors.

The Bulletin provided examples of several types of products, services, and accommodations that are, in DIFS’ view, exempt from the “fee caps” in MCL 500.3157, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Services related to guardianship or conservatorship;
  • Vehicle modifications;
  • Home modifications;
  • Computer equipment and supplies;
  • Generators;
  • Non-emergency medical transportation;
  • Non-prescription drugs;
  • Over-the-counter medical supplies; and
  • Certain case management services

Notably, the list of exempted products, services, and accommodations set forth in the Bulletin is not exhaustive, as DIFS itself acknowledged.  Instead, according to DIFS, the proper inquiry for determining whether a particular product, service or accommodation is subject to the reimbursement limitations set forth in MCL 500.3157 is whether it was “provided by physicians, hospitals, clinics, or other like persons.”

Moreover, in the Bulletin, DIFS explicitly directed no-fault insurers who have applied the reimbursement limitations in MCL 500.3157 to products, services, and accommodations that are exempt (including those listed above) to “re-process” the claim immediately, applying only the “reasonable[ness]” requirement set forth in MCL 500.3107(1)(a).  Further, DIFS instructed providers whose bills have been processed improperly to contact the no-fault insurer at issue to request reconsideration.

In short, DIFS’ Bulletin 2021-38-INS may be used by providers other than “physicians, hospitals, clinics, or other like persons” to assert that the “fee caps” set forth in MCL 500.3157 should not be applied to limit reimbursement by no-fault insurers for the products, services, or accommodations that those providers  render to auto accident survivors.

Michigan Covid Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA)

From MSHDA: For Complete Post, click here…

Select Apply Now to authenticate & begin your application.

Apply Now

The COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program is designed to keep Michigan residents who fell behind on their rent and/or utilities during COVID-19 in their homes.

This program provides Covid Emergency Relief Assistance (CERA) for housing (rent), utility, and internet assistance to qualifying individuals or families. Please review the eligibility and documentation requirements before beginning this application.

To complete the application, you will have to authenticate by proving ownership of the email address you enter. This CERA App will send you a 6-digit code you will need to complete your application.

View Required Documents 

Help Us Investigate Domestic Violence Shootings

by Jennifer Gollan and Byard Duncan: For Complete Post, click here…

Nationwide, the number of people shot to death by their intimate partners increased more than 20% from 2010 through 2019. Many of the shooters had prior convictions that made it illegal for them to possess a firearm. Yet no one took away their guns or stopped them from obtaining another one.  

The federal government doesn’t track the number of people who are shot and killed by intimate partners prohibited from having firearms. Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found more than 110 victims over a four-year period who were gunned down by abusers barred from having weapons under federal law. That number is almost certainly a vast undercount. 

Reveal would like to get a more accurate picture of how many people have been shot by offenders illegally possessing firearms. We want to determine what procedures could be put in place to prevent more killings. Do you know of someone who was shot by a domestic violence offender who was prohibited from having a gun? If so, please share your story.

Are you a policymaker, federal or state official, prosecutor, judge, or someone else with information we should know? Please email Reveal reporter Jennifer Gollan at jgollan@revealnews.org.

If you or someone you know are in danger or need help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence at http://www.ncdsv.org/

Help us investigate domestic violence shootings

Disability and Civil Rights Advocates Sound Alarm Over Voting Rights Restrictions

By Tim Gilmer: For Complete Post, click here…

It has always been hard to vote in Texas for many wheelchair users, but Toby Cole fears it’s about to get even harder. On Sept. 7 Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1, a law that will go into effect Dec. 2 and contains numerous new voting restrictions. Disability and civil rights groups say the new law will unfairly impact minority voters, including wheelchair users and other people with disabilities.

opens in a new windowCole is a board member of the Houston chapter of United Spinal Association and a past president of the Houston Trial Lawyers Association. Harris County, where Cole lives, is Texas’ largest. Many of its 750 polling places have accessibility problems, including non-compliant ramps, walkways impassible for wheelchair users and locked gates along access routes. Cole, a C5 quad, had problems when voting at a church. “I had to wait a long time in line outside. Someone finally saw me, came out and said, ‘Sorry you won’t be able get to where you need to vote from here.’” They took him to a back kitchen entrance. There was a high, 3-inch threshold and no ramp. “Somehow I managed,” he says. “But I wondered what would happen if I had had to wait in line even longer. In Texas we have heat issues, and as a quad I can only sit for a limited time.”

The new law, he says, creates new problems by unnecessarily including complicated processes that discourage voting.

SAMHSA to Launch New “Office of Recovery” to Expand Its Commitment to Recovery for All Americans

From SAMHSA: For Complete Post, click here…

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is launching an Office of Recovery, within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use, to advance the agency’s commitment to, and support of, recovery for all Americans. September marks National Recovery Month, and in organizing this new office, SAMHSA will now have a dedicated team with a deep understanding of recovery to promote policies, programs and services to those in or seeking recovery.

“We have identified recovery as a crosscutting principle throughout SAMHSA’s policies and programs,” said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and the leader of SAMHSA. “In standing up this new office, SAMHSA is committed to growing and expanding recovery support services nationwide.”

Recovery is enhanced by peer-delivered services. These peer support services have proven to be effective as the support, outreach and engagement with new networks help sustain recovery over the long term. Peer services are critical, given the significant workforce shortages in behavioral health. SAMHSA’s new Office of Recovery will promote the involvement of people with lived experience throughout agency and stakeholder activities, foster relationships with internal and external organizations in the mental health and addiction recovery fields and identify health disparities in high-risk and vulnerable populations to ensure equity for support services across the Nation.

“SAMHSA believes in recovery and recognizes the importance of including families, loved ones and allies,” said Assistant Secretary Delphin-Rittmon. “If people are struggling, they don’t need to struggle alone – services and supports are available across the country, which can help people find long-term recovery.”

SAMHSA has a long history of advancing Recovery Support dating back to the 1980s with the Community Support Program and the 1990s, when the first Recovery Community Support Programs were funded. SAMHSA defines recovery as a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives and strive to reach their full potential.

People searching for treatment for mental or substance use disorders can find treatment by visiting https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov or by calling SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

New auto insurance law forcing severely injured people to scramble for scarcer and scarcer care

By Tracy Samilton: For Complete Post, click here…

The first thing you notice about Jake Veeder is his horrific injuries. The second thing you notice is his absolutely killer smile, the kind that lights up his whole face.

His mother is Tricia Smith. She has the same smile.

People mistake the two for brother and sister, or worse, girlfriend and boyfriend, all the time.

“I hate it,” the 23-year-old Veeder said, with just a tiny hint of that killer smile.

I met mother and son, along with Melanie Olson, Veeder’s medical case manager, outside his new home, Maple Manor in Novi. Veeder has some speech difficulties from a brain injury, so I asked Smith to tell me what happened to him.

Like practically everyone with a story about a catastrophic car accident, she started it the same way. With the date.

“It was on November 17, 2018,” said Smith. “He was the passenger in a vehicle that lost control, and they ended up flying off the road. The car flipped over, and Jake was pinned inside for about 40 minutes. It was on fire, so a lot of his injuries came from him burning.”

Smith said no one ever thinks it’s going to happen to them — going suddenly from a normal life, to living in a nightmare. His injuries were extensive. Closed head injury. Burns over 40% of his body. A broken orbital bone. A dissected carotid artery. The list goes on.

Veeder was 20 at the time of the accident. Like everyone in Michigan in 2018, he had lifetime medical on his car insurance policy. The cost of his care has been jaw dropping.

First, there was the three months in the hospital burn unit.

“Just his bill at Hurley alone was $2.98 million,” Smith said.

Then, a transfer to Mary Free Bed, a pediatric rehab hospital. Then, a transfer to Origami Rehabilitation, a comprehensive residential rehab facility.

“Last I checked we were just over $10 million,” she said. She glances at her son in a way that somehow combines humor, sorrow, and affection. “Yeah, he’s the $10 million man.”

Melanie Olson is Veeder’s medical case manager. Case managers help people with complex medical conditions get the care they need.

Olson said Origami offers one-on-one care, a brain injury rehab program, adaptive equipment to become more independent. A social life.

“He was doing phenomenal at Origami, in Lansing, weren’t you, Jake? He was making so much progress,” she said.

But in July 2021, insurance companies began paying providers less than their actual costs. The new law lets them do that. Veeder’s insurance company, Progressive, told Olson that he had to find someplace cheaper.

David Seymour’s collateral damage

By Emily Writes: For Complete Post, click here…

There was a period of almost a year when our eldest son wasn’t “vulnerable”. He’d recovered well from the latest surgery, his fourth or fifth since he was born, and he had managed to struggle through a common cold without hospitalisation. Life, had finally become normal for us.

He went to school. He loved it. He built an enormous group of friends, discovered a love of cross-country, started learning to surf, and began swimming. He had his birthday party at the pool – that would have been unthinkable the year before.

He had playdates and his first sleepover. He was six. For the first time in a long time we didn’t have to hold our breath.

Then he caught a tummy bug. Then he fell into a coma. He spent three weeks in hospital and was diagnosed with type one diabetes. He did not return to school for two months. When he did – it was for half-days.

David Seymour has a plan for Covid 19 apparently. He says: “We can’t keep living with the uncertainty that we could be locked down again at any moment.” This is a bitterly funny comment to parents and caregivers who constantly live in uncertainty. (I started a new job and two days later, my son was in hospital for weeks).

It won’t surprise you that Seymour’s plan involves the isolation of the “medically vulnerable”. It involves pushing children like Eddie back inside, into an endless bubble from which they can never escape from, because their mental health and their worth is apparently of little value.

“Children are anxious about missing school”, Seymour says, apparently discounting the hundreds of thousands of disabled and medically fragile children who would be removed from school completely if we were to only isolate the medically vulnerable.

“Medical operations are being deferred”, he says, without considering how we are meant to cope when we take our medically fragile children to hospital and ICU beds are full. Will my child be worthy of an ICU bed? Will his life be worth saving?