My legal practice is in the area of promoting the civil rights of people with disabilities. As such, I pay very close attention to public policy and practically everything related to politics. Both personally and professionally, I am supportive of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. I support this burgeoning movement, not because I agree with them completely, but rather, because so far they have been the only opposing voice to entrenched power and the Tea Party. For many in the disability community, the Tea Party and Ayn Rand inspired activists are simply too scary.
As an example of my concerns, consider long-term care i.e., nursing homes. Medicaid usually pays the monthly bill for people in nursing homes, but on the other side, in many instances, these institutions are owned by publicly traded, for-profit companies. Consequently, there is a financial benefit to the owners of nursing homes to keep people warehoused, often against their will. Under federal Medicaid rules, states are required to pay for nursing home expenses, but they are not required to pay for services provided in the community. This results in many states simply deciding not to pay for and provide care in the community.
Another factor behind the institutional bias is the unions representing nursing home employees. Politicians are so desperate to curry favor with the healthcare unions that they will do anything to “protect jobs” and get reelected. We saw this most recently under Gov. Andrew Cuomo with his Medicaid Redesign efforts; New Yorkers with disabilities were largely shut out of the “Redesign” process and bracing for some awful policies headed our way.
In New York State alone, there are approximately 10,000 people in nursing homes, under the age of 65, that have expressed a desire to live in the community and, who by all objective medical standards, could live in the community safely and at a cheaper cost to taxpayers. In other states, the statistics are even more biased in favor of institutions and I have two friends that moved from Alabama to New York because they were looking at being forced into a nursing home.
Gradually more coherent objectives will get fleshed out and I do not expect perfection right out of the gate. Organizers on the right have been fine-tuning their arguments since the early 60s. If it takes the OWS a little longer than a few evening news cycles to express their message, it’s okay with me. What I hope ultimately results from the OWS movement is a series of principled policies that promote real accountability of all those in power, whether they are on Wall Street, politics/government, lobbyists or any organization which puts its self-interest above that of the individual.
For the time being, as the saying goes, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” and that is enough for me.