Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bad bad news

I’m being held hostage.

At least I was. I may or may not still be held hostage. Which, more or less by definition, means I’m being held hostage.

Last week, in the Los Angeles Times, there was a prominent article - big, section-leading headline - saying that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was considering the elimination of certain programs assisting the poor and disabled in debt-swamped California. The article noted that the governor was about to unveil his revised budget proposal (the "May revise") after the April tax revenue was even more abysmal than expected and that one of the programs that Schwarzenegger was thinking about ending was funding for in-home personal care attendants for the disabled.

That’s ending. Elimination. Not cutting. Schwarzenegger, who last year literally jumped to do a photo-op to save an apartment complex for the developmentally disabled, was arguing that he had to end these programs, because the courts had ruled that the programs can’t be cut. Yes, you’ve got it. The courts didn’t say that programs can’t be eliminated.

This would have been a hysterical farce, a beautiful example of Orwellian logic. Except that my stomach was being churned inside out. Except that it was my life that was poised to be eliminated.

What was even more upsetting and frustrating about the article is that it didn’t answer any of the questions that were screaming to be answered but that nobody thinks to ask. Questions like what does Schwarzenegger think people like me will do without the money to pay our attendants who get us out of bed, help us use the toilet, feed us, etc.? Does he think that our attendants, who need to make a living, will work for free, out of the kindness of their hearts? Does he think we’ll rely on family - even when, as in my case, they are too far away or aren’t able to help? Is he saying we should be forced into nursing homes, which is not only barbaric but far more costly? Or are we to be left to rot in our beds or on the sidewalk?

In a way, this is nothing new. Every year, for the last decade or two, when it comes time to pass a budget on July 1 (a deadline rarely not missed), there is some talk like this, and I worry. I worry for my life.

But this was the most drastic talk I’ve ever heard in such a flat, matter-of-fact way. Even as I knew it was just talk, even as I knew there is no way that the attendant-funding would end, I couldn’t help thinking the most drastic thoughts and worrying all the more. This was bad news told in the worst way.

Indeed, two days later, after Schwarzenegger had presented his updated proposed budget, the L.A Times story reported that it included cuts in - not the elimination of - the attendant-funding program. (Other programs, like the Cal-Works welfare-to-work program, are slated to end.) I don’t know what happened - perhaps Maria, with her Kennedy/bleeding-heart-Special-Olympics background, threatened to withhold sex from him if he terminated it. And hopefully the courts will hold their ground and not let the program be cut.


(A p.s for faithful readers: At about the same time I was reading about the state budget and wondering also about Medi-Cal, I found out that Casa Colina Hospital only recently submitted the request for the Vmax speech device I have been writing about lately. I thought this was done weeks if not a month ago and that the response would be coming before too long. Hopefully, the delay was due to the therapists being extra careful in making a strong case and crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s for the notoriously nit-picking Medi-Cal. Keep those fingers and toes crossed!)

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