DFN E-News: Vol. 1, No. 2
Disability in the News
- Senate Committee Approves Family Opportunity Act
- National Council on Disability Releases Annual Progress Report
- Special Education Chief Addresses Conference on Connecting Disabled Latinos to Employment
- The New York Times Examines Trend of Insurers Denying Individual Coverage for People with Mental Illnesses
- September 11th Fund and American Red Cross to Pay for Long-Term Mental Health Counseling
- Web News
The Family Opportunity Act (FOA) moved favorably out of the Senate Finance Committee on July 11, 2002. As originally proposed, FOA would allow working families with incomes up to 300 percent of the poverty level ($52,950 for a family of four) to “buy-in” to Medicaid, which provides coverage for the health care services needed by children with severe disabilities. If passed, the Act will affect children with severe disabilities whose families are permanently financially distressed. These families have incomes that are modest but too high for Medicaid eligibility, but private insurance and State Children’s Health Insurance (S-CHIP) plans don’t cover many of the health-related services and supports children with disabilities need, such as long-term physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
This bill — which provides the opportunity for families to stay together and to avoid the unwarranted institutionalization of a child for a physical or mental disability because they cannot get the services in the community — is also notable for its bipartisan sponsorship.
The major problem with the bill in its current form is that it covers families up to 250 percent, not 300 percent, of poverty. This means that it covers a family of four with income up to approximately $45,000 at 250 percent — not $52,950 at 300 percent as originally intended. The next steps are the Senate floor and, in the House, the Energy and Commerce Committee.
For more information contact Kathleen H. McGinley, Ph.D., Deputy Executive Director for Public Policy, National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, 202-408-9514, ext. 102.
The National Council on Disability (NCD) released its 2001 annual “National Disability Policy: A Progress Report,” on July 26, 2002. The report addresses several important issues related to people with disabilities, including civil rights, education, health care, employment, housing, assistive technology, housing, and transportation.
Upon release of the report on the 12th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, outgoing NCD chairperson and current DFN board member, Marca Bristo, stated: “Society can no longer afford to consider so-called disability issues in isolation from the broader dimensions of policy and practice. Whether education, employment, health, or technology, the decisions made about these essential issues impact all Americans.”
Beginning with this issue of DFN E-News, we will highlight selected portions of the NCD report. This issue focuses on the reports findings and recommendations related to health care for people with disabilities-including barriers to adequate health care and the status of issues designed to advance access and equity in the nation’s health care systems.
In regard to health care, the report states that Americans with disabilities face a number of distinct barriers in obtaining, maintaining, and using health insurance and accessing and using health care services. The report identifies six health-related issues of particular significance to individuals with disabilities and makes a number of recommendations to remove barriers and create equity in our nation’s health care system. The six health-related issues are: the Patients’ Bill of Rights legislation; Mental Health Parity; America’s Law Enforcement and Mental Health Project; Pain Relief Promotion versus Assisted Suicide; Medicare; and, Telemedicine.
NCD continues to advise lawmakers on the Patients’ Bill of Rights and Mental Health Parity legislation under active consideration in the 107th Congress. NCD will conduct an in-depth study of the Medicare system, with accompanying recommendations for legislative and/or regulatory changes to ease the barriers that currently exist. Responding to the harmful effects of discrimination based on an individual’s genetic information, NCD supported the need for federal legislation prohibiting genetic discrimination as well as the enforcement of existing legislation that may prohibit certain types of genetic discrimination.
If you would like a printed copy of the report or additional information, please contact Mark S. Quigley at 202-272-2004, 202-272-2074 TTY or log on to NCD‘s Web site, www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/progressreport_07-26-02.html.
Dr. Robert Pasternack of New Mexico, President Bush’s choice to run the National Special Education system, addressed the first national conference on Latinos with disabilities-entitled “Building Bridges.” Organized by the National Technical Assistance Center for Latinos with Disabilities, the conference will be held on August 21-24 in Anaheim, CA. Leaders and individuals with disabilities from the Latino community are meeting to discuss education and employment opportunities for people with disabilities of Latino or Hispanic heritage. The conference will also profile success stories by Latinos with and without disabilities. The National Technical Assistance Center for Latinos with Disabilities, administered by the World Institute on Disability, has a Web site with news and resources: www.proyectovision.net. For details about the conference, please contact the director of the Center, Kathy Martinez at 510-251-4326, or email to Kathy@wid.org.
The New York Times Examines Trend of Insurers Denying Individual Coverage for People with Mental Illnesses
The New York Times on July 30 examined the difficulties some people with mental illnesses face in attempting to purchase individual health insurance policies. Although the “social stigma” surrounding mental illness has somewhat faded, many insurers remain “hesitant” to offer individual policies to a person with a history of depression, anxiety, manic depression, schizophrenia or other mental illnesses, the New York Times reports. There are no statistics on how many people have been denied health policies because of a mental illness, but the “problem occurs enough to trouble mental health professionals.” Insurers maintain that denying policies for individuals with mental illnesses or giving them policies with high premiums is “a matter of math”; insurers generally assume that any patient with an existing medical condition or a psychiatric history will likely need more care in the future than a person with no such background, the Times reports. However, advocates say that insurers incorrectly assume that all types of depression are costly to treat, when in fact the “biggest costs” come from untreated mental illnesses. “Eighty-five percent of people with depression can be brought into remission if treated. That’s a higher rate than medical illnesses like diabetes,” Dr. Doris Gundersen, associate professor of psychology at the Health Sciences Center at the University of Colorado, said (Freinkel, New York Times, 7/30).
Access this story and related links online: www.kaisernetwork.org/daily_reports/rep_index.cfm?DR_id=12606
The American Red Cross and the September 11th Fund together will pay for long-term mental-health counseling of people directly affected by the terrorist attacks, reports The New York Times. The program, for which about 150,000 families are eligible, may be the largest effort by charities to provide psychiatric care after a disaster, the newspaper says. Unlike Project Liberty, a federally financed free service that offers short term crisis counseling for anyone experiencing distress related to Sept. 11, this new program hopes to reach people at high risk for more severe emotional problems, including depression, aggravated grief, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety and alcohol or drug abuse. Such problems, according to experts, usually require longer treatment than the intense stress symptoms common in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Dr. Darrel A. Regier, executive director of the American Psychiatric Association’s Institute for Research and Education and an expert in insurance coverage, said, “In essence, this is a rudimentary foundation of a mental health system for disasters…It is a very interesting social experiment, and it should be studied very carefully for what we can learn from this in terms of what we can learn from this in terms of a model of disaster care.”
For the entire story, go to www.nytimes.com/2002/08/21/national/21MENT.html?pagewanted=p… 08/22/2002
The National Center of Accessible Information (AccessIT) project is promoting the use of electronic and information technology (E&IT) for students and employees with disabilities in educational institutions. The project is co-sponsored by the University of Washington’s Department of Rehab Medicine and DO-IT, and funded by NIDRR. The Web site features the AccessIT Knowledge Base, a searchable, growing database of questions and answers regarding accessible E&IT. It is designed for educators, policy makers, librarians, technical support staff, students and employees with disabilities, and their advocates. To access the Web site, log on to www.washington.edu/accessit.
NEC Foundation of America announces the publication of a valuable new resource, Building a World Fit for People: Designers with Disabilities at Work, a book that describes the career development of 21 designers with disabilities from around the world. Written and published by Adaptive Environments and funded by NEC Foundation, the book highlights the diverse ways that each of the designers contributes to a more inclusive society. It encompasses an array of topics that contribute to fuller participation in the design professions by people with disabilities and fuller participation by people with disabilities in society. Topics include families, youth with disabilities, gender as well as disability discrimination, mentoring, vocational services, technology, diversity, civil rights, higher education, engineering, career counseling, environmental design, universal design, community and public spaces. Adaptive Environments can be accessed at: www.AdaptiveEnvironments.org. To see the entire publication in an accessible online format, go to www.AdaptiveEnvironments.org/accessdesign.
Category: DFN E-News