| Disability Network Lakeshore
On June 23, 1996, my life changed forever when I was a passenger in a car accident and became paraplegic. I was 15. On July 1, 2021, my life will change forever if more insurance reforms come into effect through no fault of my own. These changes reduce the amount my caretakers receive from fully comprehensive insurance by 45 percent.
I need 24 hour care to work, to contribute to my community, to live in my house – to live, period. I go to rehab twice a week. I do everything I can to keep myself healthy and out of the hospital. I can’t even go to the bathroom without help. But my brain works fine, I can push my own wheelchair and with hand controls I can drive my accessible van. I work full time, pay taxes, serve on community boards, and get health insurance from my employer. All of this is possible because of the care.
I work for a home health care provider who pays our caretakers about $ 14 an hour – above the minimum wage of $ 9.65 – but we still struggle to find people. What happens if the care benefit is reduced by 45 percent?
In 2019, my Senator, Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) sponsored the fully comprehensive insurance reform bill. At the same time, my State Representative Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Township) looked me in the eye and told me that the reform through no fault of my own would not affect my quality of life. Senator Nesbitt assured me in an email that “the new law has nothing to do with janitorial hourly wages; The only changes on this issue are the limitation of care for family members to 56 hours per week. ”
Not true! During a forum hosted by the Disability Network Lakeshore on April 30th, Rep. Whiteford admitted that she had mistakenly assumed that I – plus thousands of Michigandians like me – lived on government support and had no jobs or a productive life.
This revelation brought tears to my eyes. It turns out that neither Whiteford nor Nesbitt have been honest with me. For a long time I had the impression that the legislature did not really understand what I was talking about since the flawless reform became serious. These revelations confirmed it.
Given Rep. Whiteford’s assumptions, I assume that anyone who supported Sen. Nesbitt’s 2019 bill never really understood it. And this Senator Nesbitt made the same wrong assumptions about people like me. It is so painful that I am losing confidence in our political process, especially those who represent me.
The details of the July 1st discounts are disastrous and beyond those who can live at home like me – thanks to the personal care provided from no-fault insurance reserves that have skyrocketed over several decades. The July 1st discounts directly affect a total of 18,140 of us who receive care, including those who (unlike me) receive care in residential facilities. Few nursing homes in Michigan will be able to survive these drastic, sweeping cuts.
Our lawmakers have two options to avert these cuts: 1) Delaying these new implementations and real exploring the savings / losses for taxpayers; and / or 2) pass one of two bills designed as a fix – House Bill 4486 or Senate Bill 314 – that aim for a maximum rate instead of an enforced 45 percent discount. This enables the cheaper providers to stay in business, while the “45 percent discount” only rewards high, overpriced providers who can continue to operate the business model with a large discount.
Many of us who were promised lifelong benefits at the time of our car accident were being sold half a truth about flawless reform. Yes, technically it can be said that people still have lifelong benefits, but long-term care benefits will be paid at 55 percent going forward, which prevents real access to long-term care. These services have no value if there is no service provider who will accept the extremely low payment amount.
What happens when the July 1st changes are allowed to take effect? Survivors like me will end up in a nursing home (possibly at the expense of the state) or we will become homeless. Home health care providers will collapse and invaluable people will lose their tax-generating jobs, which include health insurance, adding further strain to an overburdened unemployment system.
I will not survive long in a nursing home and I cannot live without proper care. On July 1, 18,000 survivors like me will suddenly have nowhere to go, and residential facilities that care for thousands of those injured in car accidents will cease operations.
Are Michigan residents sure to take the extra financial burden of looking after us?
– Amber Marcy is employed and lives in her own home in Saugatuck, Michigan. She is the president of the board of directors of the Disability Network Lakeshore, a center for independent living in Allegan and Ottawa counties.
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