It has been a busy couple of weeks on the legislative front, both in Washington and in Springfield.
We asked you, our families and friends, to contact your congressmen and senators to request that they oppose the American Health Care Act because of the Act’s proposal to cap the federal portion of Medicaid funding. As usual, you responded. Hundreds voiced their views to their government representatives. Last Friday, the House leadership pulled the bill from consideration because it was obvious that they did not have the votes to pass it. I don’t think that we can claim full credit for the bill’s failure, but certainly our voices, added to those of others across the country, made a difference. However, we must remain vigilant. Reports in recent days indicate that there is a renewed effort to unite the Republican caucus in the House around another effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Any new legislation will likely contain a proposal to cap the federal share of Medicaid funding. We will keep our eye on this and let you know if and when we need you to act.
One lesson we learned during this latest effort is that when dealing with federal legislation or regulation which will have a nationwide affect, we need to enlist our family members and friends outside of Illinois. Many of you responded to our request to contact your out of state family and friends and have them reach out to their congressmen and senators. Much of the action over the next few years will be in Washington and we need to develop a strong network across the country to make sure our voices are heard by a broad set of legislators and other government officials. At the MFA meeting next month, we will discuss some plans for establishing a nationwide network.
Down in Springfield, our state legislature is considering bills that could impact Misericordia and our families. One bill, HB 2665, would require that individuals who wish to be guardians for their family members with a disability must undergo training provided by the Office of the State Guardian. We feel this is an unnecessary imposition on you. Parents and siblings do not need to be trained to know what is best for their family member. We learned at the last minute that HB 2665 was going to be heard by the House Trust and Estates subcommittee at 8:00 a.m. Wednesday. Even though our request to you to fill out witness slips in opposition did not go out until 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, about 200 Misericordia family and friends filled out witness slips. You folks are awesome. We do not like to send out these last minute requests for action. We try our best to give you as much advance warning as possible. Unfortunately, we don’t control the legislative schedule. We really do appreciate our families immediately springing to action when asked despite everything else going on in your lives.
Speaking of advanced notice, there is proposed legislation in both the Illinois House and Senate to increase the reimbursement rates to providers so that they can increase the wages of their direct service professionals (DSPs). This legislation passed the Illinois legislature last year, but the governor vetoed the bill last summer. The new legislation, HB 2960 and SB 955, is essentially the same as the legislation proposed last year and would raise DSP pay to $15.00 per hour. It is expected that committee hearings on the bills will be held during the week of May 7. When we are certain of the dates, we will let you know and will ask you to file witness slips in support.
Special thanks must be given to Jim and Pam Capraro. They make sure that word gets out quickly to our families when action is needed. Jim is always available to provide this critical communication link to our families no matter where he is in the country and no matter what time of day. When you see Jim and Pam, please express your appreciation. Without them, none of this advocacy would be possible.