Proposed home health care cuts will have a negative impact on people like me

Congressional leaders should not be looking to finance health care reform on the backs of people with disabilities.

But the legislation being considered by the Senate would cut $43 billion from spending on Medicare home health services over 10 years, while the House bill would cut $55 billion.

President Obama, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and others defend these cuts by saying that they will merely reduce fraud and waste in the program and not adversely affect the quality or amount of care given to recipients.

That’s nonsense.

To believe this one would have to believe that as health care costs skyrocket, Medicare funding can simultaneously be reduced for a decade — and those who depend on Medicare home health won’t notice any difference.

This simply doesn’t add up. And I’ve heard it all before.

Governors in many states have tried to fill budget craters by chopping similar home care assistance programs for people with disabilities. The perpetrators always say that even with less money, everyone will continue to receive the help they need.

In actuality, people do suffer. Many can no longer afford their home health providers and are forced to enter nursing homes.

Politicians seem to think that those who depend on publicly funded assistance to live healthy lives at home are politically powerless. We’re regarded as invisible shut-ins.

In horrid economic times like these, the impulse of public officials is to make those who can least fight back make the most sacrifices. Medicare home health recipients are an easy target, as long as the assault is done behind the noble shield of eliminating fraud and waste. But that shield itself is a fraud.

We must demand that our elected officials preserve Medicare funding for home health services. We can’t let them get away with this cruel cut.

Mike Ervin is a Chicago-based writer and a disability-rights activist with ADAPT (www.adapt.org). He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.