Things got tough last year when Nick lost his job and his health insurance. For the first time, he enrolled in Medicaid. He got his basic medical care covered right away, but in Kansas, there’s now a long waitlist — a 7-year wait — for people with intellectual disabilities to get the services they need. Decades ago, Fugate might have been institutionalized, but Medicaid now provides services to help people remain independent — including job coaching, help buying groceries, food preparation and transportation.
Nick is eligible for these services, but while he’s on the waitlist, he has to pay for them himself, out-of-pocket, at a cost of around $1,000 a month.
Seven years for people to get services they are legally due. But wait, the story gets worse. Kansas responded by privatizing services:
In 2013 Republican Gov. Sam Brownback put KanCare under the management of three private companies that promised to improve services, cut waste and save enough money to end the long waits for the kind of services Nick needs.
Two-and-a-half years later, many families say they’ve seen few signs of improvement, especially in terms of shortening the waitlist. In fact, it’s actually grown by a few hundred names to about 3,500. And, except in emergency situations, the wait to get treatment averages seven years.
Privatizing services is a great way to make a lot of money, but generally a lousy way to provide services. But wait, the story gets worse!
In August, the department announced it had eliminated a different waiting list — the one for getting physical disability services. That claim has been challenged by advocates, who say many people were dropped from the list without notice.
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the waiting lists, although it declined to comment for this story.
The ability of the state of Kansas to act may be limited. Gov. Brownback’s tax cuts, which he initiated to boost the economy, have instead blown a hole in the state’s budget, leaving little money to apply to something like reducing the length of the KanCare waitlist.
The US DOJ does a lot of important work investigating basic discrimination questions. Of course the new AG is likely to be Jeff Sessions, who is on record opposing inclusive education. His attitude towards disability rights more broadly isn’t clear to me, but there is no reason to believe he’ll exercise any oversight over cases like this.
So here’s my big question: How many people like Nick Fugate and his family are voting GOP, are voting for Brownback and Trump? How many people close to the Fugate family tsk tsk and shake their head and the waitlist and shrug and keep dutifully voting R?
We have to politicize people with disabilities to vote on these issues that affect their lives.