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CMS Administrator McClellan Shows Support For Medicaid Reforms;
ADAPT Organizers Press Governors To Support Community Services

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 28, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC--A group of disability rights activists met Sunday morning with Mark McClellan, Administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, to discuss the need for changes in the country's long-term care system.

According to emails and press statements from ADAPT organizers, the 500 or so advocates were pleased with what McClellan had to say.

McClellan said that the persistence of the disability rights community has led the administration to seek legislation designed to reform Medicaid so that community services are mandatory, not optional. Under the current long-term care system, state Medicaid programs must provide nursing homes and other institutions, but can choose whether or not to have in-home and other community-based supports as an option. For this reason, about 75 percent of all Medicaid money goes to institutions.

McClellan also told the crowd that people with disabilities are the true experts on community-based services, and therefore need to be involved in the reform process.

"We believe he is sincere in his commitment," said Barbara Toomer, an ADAPT Organizer from Utah, "but we are all too aware of living in a country where people like Clint Eastwood have the money and influence to make movies that try to tell the world, 'it's better to be dead than disabled.'"

Toomer was referring to Eastwood's Oscar-winning movie "Million Dollar Baby" which ends with the "mercy killing" of a quadriplegic character.

"We don't want lethal injections and plugs pulled," said Toomer. "We want to live, and we want services and supports in our own homes so we can live lives of quality and choice."

ADAPT members from around the country are in Washington, DC, to push for changes in Medicaid. In addition to the meeting with McClellan, the advocates plan to pressure governors, who are in town for the National Governors Association meeting, to endorse a resolution supporting changes in long-term care.

The original resolution, proposed by Pennsylvania's Governor Edward Rendell, supported the Medicaid Community Attendant Services and Supports Act, and the Money Follows the Person Act, which have recently been reintroduced into Congress. Rendell's resolution also stated support for the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court's "Olmstead decision", which held that institutionalizing people with disabilities unnecessarily violates their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

ADAPT advocates are concerned that the original resolution which has been compromised by members of the NGA, particularly Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.

"The resolution is all about family values," said Pennsylvania ADAPT Organizer Mike Eakin, in a statement. "It keeps families together, let's people stay at home where they want to be, and it's the moral thing to do."

"We want the NGA to amend the watered down resolution to its original state and pass it. It is cost effective, an efficient use of public dollars, and most importantly, it is simply the right thing to do."

"Send The NGA A Powerful Message!" (ADAPT)
"Picture Gallery of ADAPT Action" (Tom Olin)
Current legislation (Center for Disability Rights)

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