Autism Policy/Politics in Minnesota; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Let’s start with the Good. Remember back in April 2011 – there was a front page article on Minneapolis Star Tribune titled (Double Standard). 

Minnesota has been paying for wealthier autism families autism therapy such as ABA, developmental, etc in Medicaid funds through Fee for Service Medicaid, while it Denied low income autism families/minority families by putting them into Managed Care Medicaid health plans. There was a catch, Minnesota department of human services (DHS) called the therapy “skills training”. I know what the heck is skills training, it is not a method of therapy. It is simply the ability to train someone to do a skill. 

As a result, before the article and since, we (minority/low income parents) have been fighting with laser like focus because to be discriminated in Medicaid when you are low income is just silly. 
By the way, isn’t Medicaid for the poor?
To make a long journey short; DHS Commissioner and her team have realized the discrimination, accepted responsibility and starting January of 2013 negotiated with Managed care health plans that manage Medicaid to pay the SAME type of therapies and services as those wealthier fee for service Medicaid autism families get.
It gets better; DHS leadership have also decided to finally have autism therapies paid and actually call it what it is ABA, Development approaches like FloorTime, etc and ask HSAC members (who are so inclusive – these folks will give you a cavity. That is how sweet they are) to recommend a language that will hopefully be introduced in the state legislature in 2013 session. 
All I can say is YAY DHS! Commissioner Jesson – as the saying goes (you have come a long positive way) Fantastic!
Now The BAD:
Remember autism therapy legislation initially started years ago by Rep Norton (DFL) from Rochester that said (autism therapy should only be paid and covered for children who have state regulated private insurance which is less than 30% of the market. It excluded families that have self insurance coverage and most importantly low income families that have Medicaid/MA coverage. Well, Rep Norton is baaaack again with the same legislation with a different number. And even after all of the above – Rep Norton is still trying to convince us the sun rises out of the west and that Minn DHS does pay for autism therapy for low income families. Now what now?
Now the Ugly:
State legislature of the Senate and House is controlled by the same party along with the governorship. This is the same party that takes minority votes in Minnesota for granted and free without anyone asking what the heck have they done for us. In fact, they can speak for us, about us without us. That is right because god forbid we have opinions or ideas. To make matters worse, if you are not their BFF – then whatever issue you are advocating for gets left in the back burner. 
During elections, so many of these folks come to our communities, learn our language, our culture so on and so forth. Once they win – drop us faster than we can blink – what else is new here. Their logo is helping the wealthier autism families will somehow lift our boat – this tide will lift everyone in the boat. The problem is this tide can not lift poor minorities who are not even in the boat and were left out so long ago on the shores or in the middle of the ocean. 
My advice would be we need to use our votes wisely by negotiating with them rather than just giving it to them just to see it wasted. Think about that and don’t be fooled or misled by empty words or useless words. Action speaks louder than beautiful words. 
Then there is the other party of everyone please pull yourself by your boot straps. Now what now! What if you don’t own any boots or have no idea where the straps are located. What – you will lower my taxes – that is like asking a naked and hungry person if they would like a washing machine or spresso coffee maker. Reality check here please.
So, what is a low income and/or minority Minnesotan to do? 
1. Don’t let our votes be wasted on ungrateful or clueless folks. We need to learn how to fish, negotiate for better policies, services and sharing of resources. We need better leaders that are for the interest of the community as a whole rather than being used as a political fools.
Idil – Somali Autism Mom

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