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California Calls for Austerity for Disabled Children

by Nathaniel Murphy Wednesday, Jun. 06, 2012 at 9:29 AM

In the Budget Proposal for 2012-2013, Governor Jerry Brown proposes to defund California Children's Services' Medical Therapy Program by establishing harsh and restrictive financial requirements for the families of the disabled children who rely on this vital service.

Medical Therapy Program Eligibility. The Budget proposes to align income eligibility requirements for the Medical Therapy Program with the broader California Children’s Services (CCS) Program. Currently, there is no financial test for eligibility. Under the proposed eligibility standards, families with annual income less than $40,000 or with annual CCS-related medical expenses exceeding 20 percent of their annual income will continue to be eligible for the Medical Therapy Program. This is consistent with the eligibility requirements already in place for all other CCS benefits and will result in savings of $9.1 million General Fund in 2012-13 and $10.9 million in 2013-14. In addition to state savings, counties will also realize savings.

Pages 7-8 of the 2012-2013 Governor’s Budget Highlights
Department of Health Care Services

This is a shameful austerity measure. The children affected by this measure are children who need physical or occupational therapy most likely due to a chronic disability. The CCS Medical Therapy Program is not a luxury for these children- it is a necessity. Setting a financial cut-off for a necessary service is going to be inevitably arbitrary, but setting it at $40,000 is cruel. This implies that a family making 45 or 50 thousand dollars (or even more) has extra money to pay for therapy for their already disabled child without it affecting the rest of their household expenses. This only creates impossible dilemmas for a great many families- to come up with extra money to pay for therapy or have their child go without it. But once gain- this is a necessary service for the children who use it as well as an important resource for the parents and families of these children who often have extra stress resulting from caring for a child with special needs.

The rationale for this measure is that it is ‘consistent with the eligibility requirements already in place for all other CCS benefits.’ These other benefits are financial assistance for those who meet the requirements and case management for complex medical conditions. In other words, the rationale seems to be that need based services should have the same financial eligibility as financial based services. But the whole point of need based services is that there ought to be no other requirements than need. This is a simple matter that is being complicated by economic interests.

This proposal also states that it will save the state $21 million over two years plus whatever savings counties will realize. In reality this is not a savings, but it is a coldly calculated transaction. It is a clear case of Governor Brown selling the quality of life of our children- those who need a little extra care. Special needs means that these children need a little special attention. This budget is ensuring that they do not get it. It is a disgusting travesty carried out in the name of austerity. Governor Brown and whatever aids that thought of and encouraged it should be ashamed of themselves.

Petition for Governor Brown through Change.org: http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-jerry-brown-california-do-not-cut-the-budget-of-ccs-s-medical-therapy-program#
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