Public Source

Report: Nursing home workers paid ‘poverty wages’ by profitable industry

According to a recent report from the Keystone Research Center, Pennsylvania’s nursing homes are misusing public funds. Although nursing homes are quite profitable, the report shows that the industry readily accepts government subsidies for healthcare provided to residents but pays low wages to employees. Advocates are now calling to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Read more.

Revisiting ‘Broken Shield’

This story from the Center for Investigative Reporting follows up on a 2012 investigation into the failures on the part of police to protect the developmentally disabled at California care institutions. The original series, Broken Shield, won the inaugural Katherine Schneider Journalism Award for Excellence in Reporting on Disability, the annual award of the National Center on Disability and Journalism.

13 deaths blamed on abuse and neglect at California state-run homes

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Newly released records from the California Department of Public Health show 13 people have directly died from abuse, neglect and lack of supervision since 2002 at state-run institutions for the developmentally disabled. The Center for Investigative Reporting sued the public health department in 2012 after officials there refused to release the records over patient privacy concerns. This February, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of CIR and compelled the department to release the documents.

These documents paint the most vivid picture yet of the poor treatment sometimes experienced inside California’s five taxpayer-funded development centers, which house more than 1,100 patients. In total, the centers have been fined for their actions in the deaths of 22 people since 2002.

Read more at Reveal, CIR’s new digital platform for its investigations.


Doctors’ Ignorance Stands In The Way Of Care For The Disabled

People with disabilities routinely receive substandard health care despite accounting for 20 percent of the U.S. population. Dr. Leana Wen, director of patient-centered care research in the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington University, recounts an emergency room memory when a man in a wheelchair was passed over by the medical staff because they were unsure how to care for him. Wen calls for increased disabilities education and training in medical schools, reporting that more than half of medical school deans say their graduates are not competent to treat people with disabilities. Read more.

The Washington Post

How Medicaid forces the disabled to be poor (but some bipartisan help is on the way).

Medicaid-financed services are essential in helping millions of people living with disabilities quite literally survive. However, there is a major flaw in the oft-debated Medicaid system that is starting to be addressed by members of both parties in Congress– namely, that people with disabilities have to live, “officially at least, as a pauper.” In order to receive life-long care, Medicare recipients cannot have money saved away (as in a college fund for children) and must continue working to receive continued funding.

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2013 would allow people with disabilities to establish savings accounts to be used for a variety of purposes, including education, housing, assistive technology and other basic needs. ABLE, sponsored by more than 400 members of Congress, is on the legislative agenda again this year and is expected to be voted on in the coming weeks. Read more.

New America Media

Disability Advocate Speaks Out on New California Care Program

Disability advocate Pamela Hoye expressed hope and concerns about a new demonstration project under the Affordable Care Act for low-income seniors and those with disabilities at a recent New American Media ethnic briefing.

Hoye, who has cerebral palsy, said the “continuity of care provisions” under the program (called Cal MediConnect in Calif.) could ease concern but will not replace important trust that’s built between existing doctor-patient relationships. Hoye also raised questions about whether individuals’ needs and preferences would be honored when choosing primary care doctors or “imposed on us by bureaucratic red tape and protocols.”

Read more about Cal MediConnect and Hoye’s analysis here.

Associated Press

FDA OKs mental disability blood test for infants

The Food and Drug Administration cleared a new blood test on Friday that can detect mental disabilities in infants. The laboratory test called CytoScan Dx Assay is not intended for prenatal screening but for helping doctors diagnose some developmental disabilities earlier, such as Down syndrome and DiGeorge syndrome.

Whereas other existing tests are generally only used after a child starts exhibiting signs of a disorder, doctors said the new test should be available to use before any signs occur to help get appropriate care right away. Read more.

Boston Globe

US ‘on the cusp’ of mental health advances, Biden says

Vice President Joe Biden said it’s “astounding” what the country does not know and what it will learn about mental illness and disorders at the inaugural gala of the Kennedy Forum on mental health in Massachusetts Wednesday night. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also spoke at the conference marking the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy signing a law funding mental health centers. She applauded the new federal health care law for requiring insurers to provide more equal coverage of mental health disorders. Read more.

USA Today

‘Habilitation’ among new Obamacare benefits

Habilitation, or supplying people with physical and developmental disabilities with the means of developing independence through treatment, is among the “10 essential benefits” that must be provided through plans offered under the Affordable Care Act. What that actually means for the disabled community remains to be seen due to several varying factors. The federal health care law mandates coverage of habilitation services but leaves it up to states to decide what and how much will be covered. Moreover, the problems that have plagued the online health exchanges are keeping many people from reading exactly what insurers on the health exchanges are covered. Read more.

New York Times

Lacking Rules, Insurers Balk at Paying for Intensive Psychiatric Care

Despite assurances from federal officials that the Affordable Care Act classifies mental health care as an essential benefit, the underlying rules of coverage remain unclear, according to a report from The New York Times.

The problem lies in deciding how to treat mental illness because there is little consensus on a standard of care among doctors and researchers.The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 has more or less fallen short of its goal to require insurers to cover psychiatric illnesses and substance abuse disorders the same way they do other illnesses.

As millions of uninsured Americans prepare to sign up for coverage under the ACA on Tuesday, those seeking treatment for mental health must be ready to do a lot of the digging on their own. Read more.