Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Health care cuts for disabled cost us all

The latest cuts to health services for the poorest British Columbians crossed a line.
The income assistance and disability benefit cuts are cruel, wasteful and petty.
And the hypocrisy and contempt for the public - everyone, not just those disabled and poor people hurt by the cuts - is shameful.
The cuts weren't announced as part of the budget last week or included in the ministry's service plan.
Instead, the public affairs bureau - the government's $26-million-a-year communications arm - put out a news release headlined "Province protects services for low-income clients."
In fact, it was cutting services for those people.
The basic goal is to reduce the health benefits for people living on provincial disability benefits and income assistance.
They are already dirt poor. A disabled person in B.C., unable to work and with no other income, gets $906 a month, with $375 of that for housing. That's $10,872 a year, including $4,500 for housing.
Meanwhile, MLAs can claim up to $19,000 just for an apartment to use while they’re in Victoria. And Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for income assistance, billed taxpayers $18,654 in the most recent reporting period just for meals and accommodation while he was in the capital.
Yet he says people paying all their bills from an income barely half that much should find money for medical costs (most of which MLAs don't have to pay).
Disability and income assistance benefits have included some medical equipment and supplies necessary "to help reduce serious health risks."
But the program was too generous, the government decided.
For example, the benefit plan recognized that people on income assistance or disability benefits couldn't afford birth control and covered the cost of IUDs. No more.
So people who were not good at taking birth control pills or couldn't use them for medical reasons are now at greater risk of pregnancy. The result will be more unwanted children born to poor families, or more abortions. Neither seems desirable for a sensible government.
The government will no longer pay for medical testing devices such as glucometers for diabetics. People with the illness - often called a disease of poverty - are supposed to find the money themselves out of an income equivalent to a full-time job paying $5.75 an hour.
Most won't. Glucometers are essential for measuring glucose levels in the blood and managing diabetes. Without monitoring, which lets individuals manage their illness, the risks of medical complications and much more expensive care rise sharply.
What can be dumber than measures that increase illness, abortions and unwanted pregnancies?
And what can be smaller than beating up on these people to save, in the case of the cuts to medical equipment and supplies, $3 million this year and $6 million next year?
The government had no hesitation in giving MLAs a raise last April (though salaries are frozen this year). And it spent $16.4 million last year to enrich pensions for MLAs - more than all these cuts to the vulnerable will save annually.
Petty and wasteful seem covered.
Cruel is more subjective. But consider this cut. The government has provided a minimum shelter allowance to people between 59 and 65 even if they were homeless or not paying rent. It was only $75 a month, but it helped.
Now it's taking that money away.
So a 62-year-old woman who had been getting by on the basic disability income - $531 a month - plus the $75 shelter allowance, will now face a 12-per-cent cut in income.
If she makes it to 65, the federal pension of $1,170 a month will be will be $640 higher than the amount the Liberal government thinks seniors should be able to survive on.
The Liberals didn't run on cuts to support for disabled British Columbians.
And Coleman has no studies or analysis to show this makes sense. It would be hard to find a doctor in B.C., outside the Liberal caucus, at least, who would support them.
Dumb, small, mean - and incompetent.
Footnote: Coleman said the cuts are needed because more people are on income assistance. That hardly seems unexpected. The economic slowdown has meant more people have lost their jobs. For too many, once EI benefits and their savings run out, income assistance is the only option.


Anonymous said...

Once again more proof this government has lost its moral compass (if it ever had one). But to listen to the radio hacks this is a great government, totally responsible. It is and has broken the social contract between the people and government. Tme for the feeble NDP to stand up and say something and constantly bring it up.

Kevin (not Falcon) said...

The NDP stand up... Stand up???

Ha, ha, ha, I wet myself. The NDP "stand up". You slay me.

Oh, in my dreams. Only in my dreams.

Anonymous said...

I've voted NDP for years - last year was the last time. NEVER AGAIN! They've proven themselves to be completely incompetent as official opposition, how much more useless would they have been as government?

Step Down C. James! Let the party rebuild itself - IF it can. You're a disgrace to this voter.

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Norm Farrell said...

Well folks, we can't have Pavco spending $700 million for a new roof and a temporary stadium and take care of needy people too.

Get your priorities right. Structures before people - that's the Liberal way.

Anonymous said...

thanks Paul, such an important topic to write about. Thousands and thousands of our most vulnerable citizens adversely affected by mean-spirited and short-sighted cuts. Nothing like kicking 'em while they're down. Another damning indication about what BC is becoming and where it is going.

Do you think Gordon Campbell will retire in BC once he's finished remaking the province?

Marguerite said...

I am just totally disgusted about this government's tactics, but have no faith in the NDP either. What to do??

Unknown said...

How much are the NDP or any other oppositions doing that we never hear about in the not so free, not independent, monopolized media?
Until information is publicized we'll never know...

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