This morning, I had the privilege of meeting with Senator Lisa Brown, the Senate Majority Leader of our state legislature. Senator Brown has been a long time advocate for health care issues in our state so it was fitting that she met with a number of health care advocacy groups to talk about the budget.
In particular, Senator Brown spoke to the importance of saving many important health care programs - like Basic Health, Disability Lifeline, Medicaid, and Apple Health for Kids. Many people may wonder why the state has so many programs to take care of people's health care needs. A disease like MS has many faces and so do the citizens of our state. The health care needs of a child differ greatly from that of someone who can't work because of a disability and those may be different needs than a low-income worker who doesn't get health insurance through their job. Together, these programs make up the state's safety net. And they are carefully coordinated, because we know that today's worker may be unemployed tomorrow and their health care needs won't change even though their employment situation does.
When we see cuts in one state program, it impacts another. And for the last three years, we've been seeing deep cuts to all sorts of programs in the state's safety net. Plus cuts to K-12 education, colleges & universities, public safety & corrections, and our state parks. Nothing has been spared from the economic downfall.
During the economic downturn, legislators have been making significant reforms to deliver state services more efficiently. They've saved taxpayer money by reforming services like Disability Lifeline and Basic Health, but they likely can't keep reform their way out of our current $2 billion budget shortfall without significantly impacting people who depend on the state's safety net - including many people who live with MS.
At the meeting, health care advocates, including myself, urged Senator Brown to stop making cuts to our state's safety net. Too many people with MS rely on the state for their health care needs and they don't have anywhere else to turn if these cuts go through. In the afternoon, we shared this same message with Senator Karen Keiser, the Chairperson of the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee. She's on our side, but it won't be easy to convince the public that these programs must be saved, no matter what it takes.