Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A blind spot

   I’m on a roll.  In my last post, I wrote about how hard it is to get a wheelchair.  This time, it’s glasses. 
    I wrote in my last post about learning that, with my publicly funded insurance, I can get one wheelchair, either manual or power, every 7 years (or is it 5?). Never mind that I’ve had my manual chair for about 20 years, and never mind that it’s critical I have a reliable, not-too-old power wheelchair.  I am eligible only for one or the other. 
   Last week, I learned  that the situation is even worse when it comes to eye glasses. 
   I suspected again when I went to my eye doctor a couple weeks ago after more than 2 years that the place is too high-end (too Claremont!) for me. Sure enough, I ended up with a co-pay for my exam – no, they don’t take Medi-Cal – and they don’t take my supplemental insurance, VSP (through HealthNet), for glasses. After taking the prescription, I went to a place that takes VSP and was told that VSP only covers 20% of the cost of lenses and frames.  And, no, the place doesn’t take Medi-Cal. 
   I was frustrated and alarmed and made further inquiries.  This is what I learned: even if I find a place that takes it, Medi-Cal only pays for an exam every 2 years.  And that’s it.  Medi-Cal doesn’t pay for glasses. 
   In what world does this make sense?  The question I have is why bother with the exam?  Why does Medi-Cal pay for an exam when it won’t pay to remedy a problem that is found? 
   Isn’t this a definition of cruelty? 
   As with the wheelchair, I am fortunate in that I am not completely reliant on this insurance.  What about people who are, and what about those who, God forbid, only have Medi-Cal?  Is seeing and reading really not that important?  Perhaps this is why many poor people don’t vote – they can’t see to read to get information about what’s going on. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In a hard(er) seat

   I am trying to get a new manual wheelchair.  It turns out a trying experience is all I’m getting. 
   I’m not talking about a fancy new motorized wheelchair.  I’m talking about a plain, simple manual wheelchair, the kind that you push.  I have one that I use when I get up and when I go to bed and when I’m sick.  I also use it when I’m going somewhere where I can’t use my motorized wheelchair (like somewhere with steps) and, most critically, as a back-up. 
   It is time to get a new one.  I’ve had this one for something like 20 years.  The left footrest won’t reliably stay in place, which is not safe.  Also, it is a sexy, sleek sports chair with stick-like armrests and a hard, hard seat.  I was much younger when I chose it and wanted to be cool.  Now that I’m not so young, I want something a bit more substantial and cushy. 
   Months after requesting a new manual wheelchair, I found out last  week that I am not eligible to get one, because I already got a motorized chair several years ago.  I can’t get a wheelchair – any wheelchair, motorized or manual – through my Medi-Cal/Medicare for another two years. 
   That’s right.  I can only get one chair, manual or motorized, every 7 years (or is it every 5 years?).  That means that either my manual or my motorized wheelchair will be in use for at least 10 years.  And what if I think it’s more important that my motorized wheelchair, which I use for miles every day and usually when I’m on my own as I go about my independent, productive life, is safe and reliable, not old? It apparently doesn’t matter. 
   Now, I am fortunate, I am blessed.  I still have the manual chair.  Yes, it’s old and uncomfortable, but it’s not broken, and I can use it.  Also, if my motorized wheelchair breaks down, I am not completely reliant on this manual chair. 
   There are many who are stuck in their manual wheelchair if their motorized wheelchair breaks down. What do they do if, in trying to have one good wheelchair to rely on, they no longer have a usable back-up.  Are they stuck on the couch, in bed?    
   This is awful, nightmare stuff.  But it isn’t necessarily just a bad dream.  In the past, I’ve been stuck in my manual wheelchair for weeks while waiting for my motorized chair to be fixed (or, really, get approved for the repair).
   There was recently an article in the Los Angeles Times about a woman who was awarded more than $28 million from Kaiser Permanente after she became disabled as a result of the H.M.O delaying a M.R.I to detect a tumor in her pelvis. The article states that the woman now “uses crutches to get around…because she doesn’t want to use a wheelchair.” Never mind that it may be easier to use a wheelchair; the message is that being disabled is bad and that any sign of it, such as a wheelchair as opposed to crutches, is to be avoided. 
   With it being difficult to get equipment and help, no wonder the woman is doing everything she can to not be at least seen as disabled or more disabled.  No wonder being disabled is such a bad thing, or is worse than it actually is or has to be.  At least the woman has $28 million to make it easier to get what she needs to make being disabled not so bad, including a wheelchair when she wants one. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A fascinating flap, a fascinating flip

   The controversy over the religious freedom laws has been fascinating.  To see the backers of these laws, signed recently by the Republican governors of Indiana and Arkansas, shocked by the backlash from the likes of Walmart and the N.C.A.A - not exactly wild-eyed radicals – has been, to say the least, something to see. 
   What we’re seeing with these laws, which not only ensure that people can’t be prosecuted for following their religious beliefs but also and most critically extend this protection or right to businesses, is the last gasp of the religious right.  There is already a federal law providing this protection to individuals, but the extension to businesses is a key difference, and the concern is that, for example, a photographer won’t provide services to a gay couple having a wedding or wanting a family portrait. 
   These state laws are a last stand, the last gasp, against same-sex marriage, which is now legal in a surprising majority of states and which many say will be okayed by the Supreme Court in the next few months. With the backlash from big businesses and big-time, money-making sport and entertainment entities and the subsequent hasty dialing down and rewriting of these laws – oh, of course, gay people can’t be refused service in any case – the conservatives and Christian fundamentalists are seeing that they no longer have much clout. 
   Wow! This is change – big-time, fascinating change. 
   It gets even more fascinating. Not only are people donating thousands of dollars to businesses that oppose same-sex marriage, but  here’s what Eric Miller of Advance America (really?), who vigorously opposed the changes in the law, said: “If you have a homosexual baker, a homosexual florist, a homosexual photographer, and they say we do not want to participate in heterosexual weddings, that’s their right.”
   So straights should go to straight bakeries, and gays should go to gay bakeries.  Or is it that Christians should go to Christian bakeries and gays should go to gay bakeries? Should there be bakeries for straight Jews and straight Muslims? 
   Then there’s Joshua Feuerstein, an Arizona evangelist who posted a video of a baker refusing to provide a cake that read “We do not support gay marriage.” Feuerstein went on to say, “We’re getting to the place in America to where Christians aren’t allowed any freedom of speech.”
   Again, really? 
   There was also an article in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times by David Savage, who covers the Supreme Court and legal matters, pointing out that LGBT folks were legally and commonly discriminated against until these religious freedom laws became an issue.  So not only are the conservatives and evangelicals losing clout, their schemes are backfiring and having the opposite effect. 
   Like I said, fascinating.