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Editorial: Don't balance budget on disabled's backs

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opinion Ellsworth,Wisconsin 54011
Pierce County Herald
Editorial: Don't balance budget on disabled's backs
Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

As available tax resources keep shrinking, state government officials have been exploring ways to clip costs in order to balance their budgets.


So it is no shock the budget ax has fallen upon programs like Family Care, which provides a long-term care system for Wisconsin residents with disabilities. The problem is recent cuts facing some clients within the system appear to be excessive and unwarranted, and thus life changing.

Several families involved in a lawsuit against the Department of Health Services and its contracted Managed Care Organizations have a front row seat to the ever-changing landscape of the Family Care system. It's not something any family should have to endure.

On the Family Care website, four goals for the system are outlined at the very top of the page:

1. CHOICE: Give people better choices about the services and supports available to meet their needs.

2. ACCESS: Improve people's access to services.

3. QUALITY: Improve the overall quality of the long-term care system by focusing on achieving people's health and social outcomes.

4. COST-EFFECTIVENESS: Create a cost-effective long-term care system for the future.

For some in the system, the fourth goal now seems to be the primary focus of state bureaucrats. For those clients whose daily reimbursement rates have been cut in half, neither choice nor access nor quality can possibly be improved as a result.

In fact, as some would tell it, the cuts these folks with disabilities are facing today have greatly diminished their independence and their overall health. It only makes sense that lessened reimbursement payments will have a negative impact on the assistance Family Care clients receive.

Government programs, at their best, protect and assist those in our society who are the most vulnerable. People with disabilities certainly fall under that category.

Government programs, at their worst, make arbitrary decisions based solely on financial concerns and not based on the likely negative impact on fellow human beings.

We can all appreciate government's attempts to do more with less money. It's not an easy goal to achieve.

But efforts to balance the budget should not come at the expense of those who deserve and require society's helping hand. People who cannot speak for themselves, as well as their often overwhelmed guardians, should not be subject to the turmoil of uncertainty and changing routines.

Those entrusted with the state's Family Care system need to take a step back and start using a bit more common sense and empathy when making decisions that impact those in their care. Any funding decisions should put people first, and not dollars first.