Monday, March 26, 2007

Republicans neglect our elderly population

My mother was hospitalized last week after a health emergency and she's being moved to a nursing home today. I wish to protect her identity so I won't go into details, but I will tell you she has Alzheimer's, and because of the added health issues she now requires round the clock care for all activities of daily living. As you might imagine,the past several days have been very difficult for us. There's a chance she'll recover enough to come home (she lives with my sister and brother-in-law), but that's a big "if" at this point in time.

Nursing homes can be scary places for patients, and also for families. We've all heard the horror stories of inadequate care or neglect and none of us want to see our loved ones end up in those kinds of places. We only want the best for them. That's what I woke up thinking about this morning. The facility they're transferring my mother to is nice, but my concern is what happens if this becomes a long-term proposition and her Medicare runs out. My mother is almost 90-years-old and outlived her money years ago. She was fortunate to have children she could live with, but none of us is in the position to help her with nursing home expenses. Mom will end up in a Medicaid facility once her Medicare runs out, and we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed that she ends up in a good place. The better nursing homes only take so many Medicaid patients and openings are hard to come by. It's shameful that the level of care an elderly person receives ends up depending on money.

It's also shameful that
some insurers have taken advantage of those people who had the means to buy LTC insurance:
Interviews by The New York Times and confidential depositions indicate that some long-term-care insurers have developed procedures that make it difficult — if not impossible — for policyholders to get paid. A review of more than 400 of the thousands of grievances and lawsuits filed in recent years shows elderly policyholders confronting unnecessary delays and overwhelming bureaucracies. In California alone, nearly one in every four long-term-care claims was denied in 2005, according to the state.

“The bottom line is that insurance companies make money when they don’t pay claims,” said Mary Beth Senkewicz, who resigned last year as a senior executive at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. “They’ll do anything to avoid paying, because if they wait long enough, they know the policyholders will die.” [...]

“These companies have essentially turned their bureaucracies into profit centers,” said Glenn R. Kantor, a California lawyer who has represented policyholders.

Yet these concerns have been ignored by state regulators, advocates say, and have gone unnoticed by federal lawmakers who recently passed incentives intended to promote purchases of long-term-care policies, in the hopes of forestalling a Medicare funding crisis. [emphasis mine]
This is just one more example of privatized services failing to deliver. Washington may be helping the insurance industry by pushing these programs, but they're not helping the people victimized by the system, and they're not helping people like my mother who can't afford the luxury of private long-term care insurance, yet she worked and paid taxes her entire life. In fact, my mother was a "Rosie the Riveter" and worked in a factory during the war. She deserves the same level of care as the next person.

Locally, our
state Republicans have shown the same disrespect and disregard for our elderly. Last week, they pushed through a late evening budget plan that would save the state more than $15 million by reducing the wages and hours for people who care for 40,000-plus low-income seniors and the disabled. Pay for home health care aides will be reduced to $7 an hour under their plan, and seniors must find the helpers on their own. They also cut funding to home-delivered meals by $97,000, which as one person said is a small cut, but it's somebody's grandmother who's going to get the phone call saying they can't get meals anymore.

I don't think there's any justification for cutting back services to our elderly or disabled, but that's not how state Republicans see it:
Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said the cuts are "painful" but argued that the GOP plan would adequately fund public safety, education and health care and help turn around Michigan.

"Once you get used to a certain level of government, it's hard to trim it back," Bishop said. "But we also know that we have an obligation to the state, to the citizens that we represent, to downsize government."
Excuse me, Sen. Bishop, but you also have an obligation to our elderly. They're citizens too. They paid taxes and contributed to society their entire lives, and now, when we should be doing for them, you want to kick them to the curb? That's disgraceful.

Put yourself in a poor person's shoes just once. How would you feel if your mother needed her adult diapers changed and you couldn't find someone willing to do it for $7 an hour? In fact, would you change diapers, give sponge baths, and strip dirty sheets for $7 an hour? Add into the equation that old people can be difficult and cantankerous to deal with, especially those with dementia, and the pool of caring people willing to work for poverty wages goes down considerably.

Sen. Bishop, you and your Republican cohorts in Michigan and Washington should be ashamed, most people treat they pets better than you treat our elderly.


Anonymous said...

This is obviously no laughing matter, but I'm reminded of that line from The Incredibles:

Your customers are experts, Bob. Experts! They're dodging every obstacle. They're penetrating the bureaucracy!"

Kathy said...

I never saw that movie, Kvatch, but the quote is sadly applicable.

I was surprised to read that 1 in 4 policy holders in California had their claims denied. A person is almost better off using those premiums to buy a lottery ticket.

Anonymous said...

Kathy, California's a mess. I'm almost tempted to get out of this state just because of the sad state of health care and health insurance.

Kathy said...

Kvatch, Michigan's cost of living is definitely more affordable than California, but I can't honestly say the state of our health care is any better.

I don't know where people can turn. I have family and friends scattered across the country from east to west and I hear the same complaints from them. It's time for our country to do something about it now, not yesterday. No more excuses.

Libby Spencer said...

Oh I'm sorry about your mom. You'll be in my thoughts and prayers. As for this article, I read it too. I was so angry I was spittin nails as they say. What a racket.

Kathy said...

Thanks for the prayers, Libby. What a racket is right. Companies don't have souls anymore. Profits come before people, unless you happen to be the CEO.