by William Skink
Hey Montana Democrats, I need help understanding why the politician near the top of your political food chain—Governor Steve Bullock—thinks the Medicaid cuts aren’t an unforeseen emergency warranting supplemental funding. Here is Travis Hoffman, Advocacy Coordinator with Summit Independent Living, in a column from today’s Missoulian:
Some legislators asked the governor for a supplemental to address at least some of the Medicaid community services cuts in March. This request was denied, as we understand that the Governor’s Office did not believe that they met the standard for a supplemental, which requires that the expense be due to an “unforeseen or unanticipated emergency.” However, for people who got their services from Helena Industries, which has filed for bankruptcy, or youth with mental illnesses who received services from the recently closed Sinopah in Kalispell or the Great Falls Youth Transition Center, and people who rely on personal care attendants to dress, bathe and eat, whose hours were significantly reduced, it really feels like an emergency.
Given that the record “unforeseen and unanticipated” 2017 fire season was the reason given for Montana’s financial state that brought about many of these cuts, they certainly appear to meet this test to me.
Is Governor Bullock correct in this assertion coming from his office? Or, does Travis Hoffman have a valid point, considering the 2017 fire season was the reason given for Montana’s dire financial situation and is the epitome of an unanticipated emergency?
Making this decision from the Governor’s office even more maddening, additional funds are being considered for the State Hospital in Warm Springs. Here is Hoffman again making some great points:
Advocates all across Montana have spent the past year trying to prevent individuals with disabilities from being forced into institutions of all kinds — nursing facilities, the Montana State Hospital, jails and prisons. Bullock’s office and the Department of Public Health and Human Services have engaged the disability community on these issues, however, many of those engagements have turned out to be meaningless.
I say that not only because the administration has made certain decisions about where the cuts were made that disadvantage community services. I say that because now, when the governor requests a $20 million supplemental appropriation to provide DPHHS services, it includes money for the State Hospital but does not include any measure to reduce the Medicaid community services cuts.
For those of us in social services this is beyond frustrating. Does the Governor not understand that supportive services are CHEAPER than sending people to institutions like the State Hospital? Or does he just not give a shit, maybe too busy getting that presidential run ready?
Democrats in Montana have feigned helplessness regarding the budget, blaming the entire budget crisis on the Republican majority. Yet here is one of their top politicians denying a chance to mitigate the most harmful aspects of reducing community-based services, opting instead to throw more money at providing significantly more costly services in an institutional setting.
I know the elderly and disabled aren’t big time political donors (therefore can’t help fund Bullock’s presidential pipe dream) but straight up denying supplemental funding to help claw back some of the painful Medicaid cuts is not just stupid, it’s mean.
Please, Montana Democrats, help me understand why Governor Bullock would prefer to fund more costly services at places like Warm Springs while denying disabled people the dignity of keeping the community-based services that allowed them to live as independently as possible in the first place.
Or, better yet, stand up to the Governor and demand a better explanation for this political move. Someone is benefiting, and it’s not the people your party claims to represent.