By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Guest column: Lawmakers should act on nursing home alternatives
Placeholder Image

On April 28, ADAPT and other disability-rights groups held a press conference in the House Ways and Means Committee Room at the U.S. Capitol complex to announce the results of a recent Harris Poll on people's willingness to pay for legislation that provides alternatives to institutional placements for long term care.

Also in Washington, at the American Hospital Association's annual meeting, hospital executives were surprised by 200 wheelchair-riding activists, waving "Stop the nursing homes!" signs and chanting "Who do we want? Pelosi! When do we want her? Now!"

The protest, organized by disability-rights group ADAPT, was to draw attention to the Community Choice Act, a bill stuck in committee that would require that states give people a choice between nursing facility care or home and community-based services under Medicaid.

The bill has 123 cosponsors in the House, yet Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who spoke to the AHA meeting, is not one of them.

Congress included language in Section 2401 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that instructs states to "make available home and community-based attendant services and supports to eligible individuals."

But that mandate did nothing to encourage the Georgia legislature to add any additional funding for home and community-based services in the state budget. According to Unlock the Waiting Lists, more than 4,000 people are waiting for help.

The Harris Poll results showed that the middle-class taxpayer would pay an average of $2.40-$6.35 annually. The poll also found that 89 percent of taxpayers are willing to pay for legislation that provides alternatives to nursing home care.

The Supreme Court's (Olmstead vs. L.C. & E.W.) ruling for more than 10 years made it the law of the land that unnecessary institutionalization violates a person's civil rights under the American's with Disabilities Act. Slowly things are changing, and some funding was added over the years.

But nothing has been done recently, and with half a billion dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy included in the budget bill passed by the Georgia House of Representatives, no new funding was added this year.

Last year, President Barack Obama signed the U.S. onto the U.N. Convention on Disability, but the U.S. isn't in compliance with this doctrine because of the institutional bias. Why sign on if you're not going to comply, I ask.

Former Rep. Nathan Deal, a candidate for governor, has supported the legislation, but did nothing to change the system when Republicans were in control. In 2008, then candidate Obama supported the Community Choice Act while running for president, but backed away from the position after winning the election.

Study after study has shown that people want alternatives to institutional care, and the fact that a majority would support a small tax increase to pay for them speaks loudly. The care would be cheaper and people would have a better quality of life, but nursing homes' profits may go down.

That is why the American Health Care Association was formed, though. As the lobby group for nursing homes, they contribute millions every year in campaign contributions to make sure those dollars keep rolling in.

Justin Pressley is a Hall County resident.