Medicaid expansion has blown a billion dollar hole in California’s budget and now cuts are inevitable, cuts that will hurt those with developmental disabilities.
The Arc of Alameda County, a non-profit that offers “programs and services for people with developmental disabilities” is one of the latest victims of the strained budget, reports NPR. The Arc runs a work center in Union City, California, that allows people with developmental disabilities to have a part-time job and socialize with other people in a safe and productive environment. Michael Palone is one of those people, an autistic man of 26 whose disease “makes it nearly impossible for him to socialize with others and adjust to the constant changes of a full-time job.” But he is able to work at the Arc with roughly 40 other developmentally disabled people.
The services at the work center have drastically improved Michael’s life.
Before joining the work activity center, Palone mostly stayed at home, in his room, playing computer games all day. He couldn’t complete simple tasks like doing his laundry without his mother’s help. But since he joined The Arc two years ago, his mother, Rosemary, said that the change in his behavior has been remarkable.
“When I first found out how good the program was for him, it made me cry,” she said.
Now Michael voluntarily joins her on trips to the grocery store, sits with the family in the living room and even washes his own clothes without needing a reminder. Plus, his work is paid. He earns about $300 per month, which he uses to buy magic cards or to treat his niece to lunch. “We talk more now than we ever did throughout his entire childhood,” Rosemary Palone says.
Thanks to the expansion-amplified budget crisis, California may not be able to keep the needed money flowing into groups like this which provide critical services to the disabled.
“Due to a lack of funding and the increasing cost of living in the San Francisco Bay area, the Arc can no longer shoulder the costs of running the program and plans to close the work center in a few months.” The work center is funded, in part, by state money – money that is drying up.
This has Michael’s mom concerned.
Rosemary Palone worries that Michael and other clients like him will have nowhere else to go. “If he doesn’t keep going to this program, all of the progress that he’s made over the past two years will just be gone in two weeks,” she said.
But the Arc’s situation is not an anomaly, in fact their “plight echoes that of similar organizations across the state.”
“California was once known as a pioneer for spearheading alternatives to confining people with developmental disabilities in state-run institutions that were notoriously overcrowded and separated patients from their loved ones,” but that progress is in danger of disappearing because the state is cutting back their spending on these programs.
Now, “more than $1 billion in state budget cuts threaten the system. In a grimly-titled report, On the Brink of Collapse, the Association of Regional Center Agencies (ARCA) noted that state has the lowest funding in the country for individuals with a developmental disability who qualify for services.”
Ronke Sodipo, director of community services at the Regional Center of the East Bay said, “Recent changes in labor laws have exacerbated funding issues for the scores of organizations that provide services.” California’s new law that requires paid sick leave, “the Affordable Care Act requirement that employers with more than 50 full time employees provide health insurance; an increase in overtime pay; and the higher minimum wage in Oakland and Emeryville have all created additional costs for the organizations.”
Yes, Obamacare is making it more expensive and harder for community service organizations to survive and the most vulnerable people they serve are losing the care they need.
This is even more egregious when you consider that those who benefit most from Medicaid expansion under Obamacare are able-bodied, childless adults, who can and should be working and buying their own insurance – and those who are hurt are truly in need of the help.
Children are being hurt too.
The work activity center at The Arc of Alameda in Union City is just one of the programs in the Bay Area that will be shutting down over the next few months because of funding issues. Luter also plans to close a child care program in Hayward, where he said deficits have run from $40,000 to $100,000 per year since 2010. The center serves children ages 2 to 5 with mild to moderate disabilities or developmental delays.
Innocent children and disabled adults are shut out in favor of the new recipients of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Adherence to liberal ideology is hurting the poor and disabled, leaving them and their families with nowhere to turn.
Kristina Ribali is the Senior Coalitions Director for the Foundation for Government Accountability. Follow her on Twitter for the latest on Obamacare.