Friday, March 29, 2013

Why did the disability treaty fail?

The Boston Globe has a great article on why the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities failed to pass the US Senate this past December. Traditionally, disability issues have always been bipartisan. For example, former Senator Bob Dole, one of the disability movement's leaders, helped to push through the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) under President George H. W. Bush with significant bipartisan support.

Unfortunately, the issue has now become a divisive issue in today's acrimonious political environment. Despite what seemed to be a sure bet, ratification of the international treaty failed by five votes. Only eight Republicans voted for it.

Here's the Boston Globe article. For someone like me who is rather new to the disability movement, it also offers a thoughtful overview of the politics that surround disability issues.

Within the MS community, I know there are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. We put our political viewpoints aside in order to focus on what's best for people with MS. What can we do to make disability rights a bipartisan issue again?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Changes are coming to your health insurance

The Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama three years ago tomorrow and we are on the cusp of the major changes taking effect. To help you get a better sense of what this means for you, I thought I'd share with you this recent press release from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner that summarizes these changes quite nicely. Read on.... 

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Three years after the passage of the landmark Affordable Care Act and Washington state is now on the cusp of the biggest health care reform in decades.

“We’re busy at the state and federal level, working behind the scenes to make sure that health care reform lives up to its promise,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “But as we approach Jan.1, 2014, people want to know what the changes will mean to them.”

As early as October, you can start shopping for coverage in Washington state’s new online marketplace, the Healthplanfinder where it will be easy to compare plans, check prices, sign up for coverage and – depending on income – get help paying for it. Individuals earning up to almost $46,000 and a family of four earning up to $94,200 could qualify for subsidies.

“The financial help available through Washington’s new Healthplanfinder will be a lifeline for people who are uninsured or struggling to afford the coverage they have today,” said Kreidler.

To help you get ready for the coming changes, we’ve launched an expanded edition of our health reform website with specific information for individuals and families including:

·    Who has to have health insurance
·    Where you can buy it
·    How much it’ll cost
·    What it’ll cover

Additional resources for small businesses, large businesses and seniors will be added soon so check back often.  We expect to receive rate requests from health insurers for their individual and small employer plans starting in May on our health insurance rate transparency site. At that time, you’ll also see which insurers want to have health plans in the Healthplanfinder.

Sign up today to be notified by email if your health insurer requests a rate or benefit change.

The following reforms are already in place:

·      No out-of-pocket costs for preventive services,
·      Sick children can no longer be denied health insurance,
·      No lifetime caps on the amount an insurer will pay for covered benefits,
·      Young adults can stay on their parents’ health coverage until age 26,
·      And your health plan can’t be canceled, except if you lie on your application.

Other major reforms starting Jan. 1, 2014 include:

·      No one can be denied health insurance if they’re sick.
·      All individual and small employer health plans must cover essential health benefits, such as prescription drugs, hospitalization, maternity care and emergency services.

“The Affordable Care Act won’t fix everything that’s wrong with our health care system today,” said Kreidler. “I’m certain that just as we did with Medicare, we’ll need to make improvements. But the reforms in place now and those coming next year are a huge first step, and not a moment too soon.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers: the National MS Society's Representative of the Year

The citizens of Washington state are lucky to have elected officials who understand the needs of people who live with MS. To prove this statement, you need to look no further than the 112th Congress (2011-2012), when we had ten of the eleven members of our congressional delegation belonging to the MS caucus. The Congressional MS Caucus are dedicated members of the U.S. Congress who raise awareness about MS on Capitol Hill and together, seek creative federal policy solutions to the challenges facing people living with MS and their family caregivers

When we reach out to our federal officials, they listen. And it's only because our committed MS Activists have asked their elected officials to pay attention to their constituents who live with MS. It's that easy.

However, some elected officials go above and beyond, and don't just support us, they want to know how they can lead the charge. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Spokane, is one of those individuals. She was our lead co-sponsor last year on the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act and supported our efforts to create an MS registry. For those efforts and many more in leading the disability movement forward, Rep. McMorris Rodgers was recently awarded the National MS Society's 2012 representative of the year award. Congratulations to her and all her constituents in the 5th congressional district, including Spokane and much of eastern Washington!

For more information, check out this news article. And if you are interested in helping out to ask our elected officials to pay attention to the needs of the MS community, let us know.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Your lawmakers are hosting town halls this weekend in your community - will you be there?

State legislators are headed home this weekend to meet with their constituents about issues being discussed in Olympia. It's a great opportunity for you to talk to them, whether you met with them during our Day of Activism or even if you've never met them before. 

Check out this link for a list of town halls for your legislators. If you don't see your legislators listed, give their offices a call and ask if they plan to have one scheduled. To look up your legislator, use this useful tool. Note that it will give you both your state legislators (who represent you in Olympia) and your congressional lawmakers (who represent you in Washington DC).

If you attend the town halls, we need you to continue to spread the two messages that we shared with legislators at the Day of Activism - keep WSHIP open indefinitely and cover more people through Medicaid! Let me know if you plan on attending these meetings and I'll make sure you know how to be the best advocate for the MS community.

To find out the latest information about these and other issues, download the last MS Activist teleconference call here. And join us for our next call on March 25 at 12:15. These calls are open to all volunteers interested in moving our issues forward. Details can be found in the green box on the right side of this page.

The National MS Society is also holding meetings with members of the congressional delegation from around the state and we could use your help to make sure they know how we feel about the issues important to the MS community. If you want to attend these meetings with me and/or other volunteer leaders, please let me know.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

MS Awareness Week is March 11-17th!!!

MS Activists at the 2013 Public Policy Conference started an early kick off for MS Awareness week. Although the impending snow storm dampened our visits to Capitol Hill, it did not dampen our Activists’ enthusiasm. MS activists who were able to visit congressional offices raised awareness about MS and urged their members to post on social media during MS Awareness Week and cosponsor the congressional resolution. 

Representatives Barbara Lee (CA-13), Michael Burgess, M.D. (TX-26) and Chris Van Hollen (MD-8) introduced the Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week Resolution (H.Res. 95) and Senators Bob Casey (PA), Susan Collins (ME), Mary Landrieu (LA) and Sherrod Brown (OH) will introduce a companion in the Senate (bill number not available yet). Use the link above to follow the Resolution’s progress and see if your Representative has cosponsored it. Please consider thanking these legislators for their continued support!

Here are some easy ways to boost your involvement with MS Awareness Week:
-Connect with your chapter to find out about local happenings recognizing MS Awareness Week

-Connect with the Society on social media and ask your friends to connect with us too! Every connection counts so share why you connect.
-Use the MS Activist Toolkit to spread the word and educate public officials about MS
-Stay informed by signing up to receive the Society’s email communications
-Download badges, email signature images, wallpapers and more to increase MS awareness
-Donate to help us move closer toward a world free of MS

Note - this has been cross-posted from our national advocacy blog - check it out as it always has good information about what's happening in the world of MS advocacy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How does Washington's governor feel about our priority issues?

Governor Inslee has been working hard recently to bring his new staff onboard and establish his priorities for the legislative session. He recently hired health care guru Bob Crittendon as his health care policy advisor. Bob has a long history of involvement with the Affordable Care Act, having headed up the Herndon Alliance, an influential advisor in health care reform efforts that helped to shape the way people think about health care reform. He will be a great ally in our efforts to make the Affordable Care Act work for people living with MS.

Governor Inslee has long been a friend to the MS community, having been a member of the MS Caucus while he served in Congress, and often voting in favor of our priority issues. He's now come down again on the side of people living with MS in the debates about whether or not to support the coverage of more people through Medicaid.  Medicaid is a valuable program for many people with MS, especially during the two year waiting period until they can get on Medicare. If states choose to expand Medicaid, thousands more people with MS will have access to health care, including treatment to slow the progression of the disease.

During a telephone town hall hosted by AARP, Governor Inslee recently voiced his confidence that the Legislature would choose to expand Medicaid, signaling once again, that he stands with the MS community. Thank you Governor Inslee!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How have you planned for an emergency? Want to influence the government's plan to respond to an emergency?

The Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities’ Public Safety Committee is working to make a difference in the way the City of Seattle plans for and responds to disasters, as well as how our own communities are prepared The Commission wants to give Seattle residents with disabilities a chance to get involved in the Committee’s work!  A link to the Seattle Disaster Readiness and Response Plan is below; it is updated every 2 years, and the City Council passed the latest version last November.  It has a significant focus on the community of people with disabilities, as well as other access and functional needs.  It also re-affirms a commitment to a Whole Community approach to planning:  Planning WITH the community, not FOR them.  Sound familiar?  The Commission will be reviewing the updated Plan and answering 3 questions:

1.      Do we have any concerns that need addressed?
2.      What gaps do we see in the Plan?
3.      How can we contribute to achieving the goals of the Plan?

The next Public Safety Committee meeting (March 27 6pm at Charlie’s on Broadway – ASL provided) will begin the discussion; Take a look at the document and join the meeting – or submit any comments to the Public Safety Committee chair via email.  There are specific sections that will be more relevant, so perhaps take a look at:

·         Section III Situation, through Public Awareness; pages 42 – 52
·         Section IV Preparedness; pages 45 - 52
·         Section VIII, Communications; pages 78 - 80
·         Section XIII, ESF-6: Mass Care, Housing  and Human Services; pages 184 – 220
·         Section XIII, ESF-8: Public Health and Medical Assistance; pages 224 - 272
·         Section XIII, ESF-9: Search and Rescue; pages 273 - 286
·         Section XIII, ESF-14: Long-term Recovery; pages 311 – 332

While it may not be at the top of our individual priorities, it is absolutely necessary for us each to be prepared for emergencies and disasters.  Our Committee works with the City, to help us even more effectively – and to help our communities prepare, individually and together.  Please join us!

Note - this announcement comes from Deborah Witmer, Commissioner, Seattle Commission for People with disAbilities and Chair, Public Safety Committee