In all of the controversy re:  Medicare D(isaster) and people not being able to get their rx’s, one aspect of it’s implementation has received little attention.  Specifically, the impact of Medicaid cuts on children with disabilities, as written by Robert P.

…services which states once HAD to offer, they now CAN offer if they choose.  If they choose not to, they save money.  One area that can be limited by states is the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) service.  This is a program aimed at taking care of our most vulnerable population – children.  Included among those are our handicapped and disabled children.

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This conflicts with provisions of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  In summary, IDEA states that all children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education.  Further implementation of IDEA encourages the “mainsteaming” of children with disabilities into the classrooms, as opposed to being segregated from the rest of the school population.

The goal of IDEA is noble, and procedural guidelines are drawn.  Specifically, in Invidual Education Plan (IEP) must be defined and followed to guarantee that a child with a disability will not be discriminated in an educational environment.  When developing the IEP, parental participation is mandated.

However, in most school districts, the funding for IDEA appears to have been diverted to adequately fund No Child Left Behind (NCLB).  Criticisms of NCLB are that it was  not adequately funded, and there is too much on an emphasis on the testing, thus leading to increased federal involvement in local government.

Another is that children with disabilities (oe their families) are not adequately represented, nor is the funding for reasonable accomodations adequately addressed.  Specifically,

accommodations must be determined by the student’s IEP team or Section 504 team, including the parent. The accommodations should be based on the student’s individual needs and should be similar to those provided to the student during classroom assessment…

Under NCLB, accommodations are defined as changes in testing materials or procedures that ensure that an assessment measures the student’s knowledge rather than the student’s disability…

These provisions will ensure that all students are included and that practices such as out-of-level testing begin to disappear. The requirement of grade level testing will enhance access and exposure to the general curriculum for students with learning disabilities, providing opportunities for accelerated learning for those who previously have been subjected to watered-down curricula and limited expectations.

As stated earlier, the funding for both IDEA and NCLB have been left to the states (funding for IDEA was permitted under Medicaid) and monies that were to fund IDEA have been diverted to NCLB. Some of the necessary accomodations include, but are not limited to, the providing of medical equipment for buses for specific children’s needs, providing transportation for children to their medical appointments, and covering the administrative costs of identifying children who need special medical and learning services.  In short, all of the above are necessary for a school district’s compliance with IDEA.  

Another cause for concern is the signing of the Budget Reconciliation Act.

The budget gives more tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy while at the same time seriously putting in peril the very lives of millions of Americans [by] the destruction of Medicaid…Once again, the Republicans have been crafty.  They have changed the rules on Medicaid in a way that will do serious harm to disabled children, the blind, the elderly, and the less fortunate in our society…

     

Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) expressed their concern re:  a free and appropriate education for children with disabilities, as mandated by IDEA.

George Miller:

“The Bush Administration continues to break its promise to the children of this nation, and particularly to children who need the most help…Eliminating funding for these services for disabled children only serves to deny them access to medical services they need to fully participate in school and learn to their greatest abilities.”

Lynn Woolsey:

“Budget proposals are about values and President Bush’s budgets again show that he values the pocketbooks of his wealthy campaign contributors rather than the interests of American children…While seeking more and more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, President Bush has consistently under funded programs that are critical to our children’s education.  This year, on top of proposing to shortchange the No Child Left Behind Act by $15 billion and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by $6 billion, the President wants to take billions more from children with disabilities on Medicaid.  President Bush’s policy of giving to the wealthy while taking from the most vulnerable is reprehensible and does not reflect the values of the American people.”

It is possible for one to conclude, based on this information alone, that the current administration has no concern re:  the civil rights of people with disabilities.  This is appalling, when one realizes that on July 26, 1990, George Herbert Walker Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

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