I was par­a­lyzed by a mos­quito bite. The GOP health care plan would be dev­as­tat­ing for me.

The Denver Post - - PERSPECTIVE - By Cur­tis Wolff

In Au­gust 2012, after a week of feel­ing very tired, I went to my doc­tor, who quickly sent me to the hos­pi­tal for tests. Within 24 hours of check­ing in, other than my brain and heart, all of my body func­tions stopped. Doc­tors told me I had “acute flac­cid paral­y­sis” due to the West Nile virus — con­tracted from a mos­quito bite in Colorado.

I spent five and a half months in mul­ti­ple hos­pi­tals. They saved my life — but not my abil­ity to move. I am par­a­lyzed, and will be for the rest of my life.

Ad­vis­ers in the hos­pi­tals told me about Med­i­caid. They ex­plained it wasn’t just health care, but also ser­vices to help me go back to my home to live. With no use of my legs and lim­ited abil­ity to move my arms and hands, I could no longer dress, cook or clean. Heck, I couldn’t get out of bed with­out help. How­ever, Med­i­caid’s Home & Com­mu­nity-Based Ser­vices (HCBS) pro­gram would sup­ple­ment the cost of aides com­ing to my home to help me with these ba­sic — but crit­i­cal — ser­vices.

At first I re­fused. I was de­ter­mined not to be one of ”those” peo­ple liv­ing off the sys­tem. After all, I had worked my way through the cor­po­rate world, pur­chased and run my own fran­chise busi­ness, paid for my own in­sur­ance, and was com­mit­ted to keep­ing that go­ing — or at least to work­ing and earn­ing my liv­ing. But there was a prob­lem: I had great pri­vate in­sur­ance with an un­lim­ited fi­nan­cial cap on health care, but it didn’t cover the ser­vices or sup­ports I would need so that I could live at home.

So I re­lented. I ap­plied for and was ap­proved to par­tic­i­pate in the HCBS pro­gram. The pro­gram has proved to be of enor­mous value — not only to me, but all of so­ci­ety.

By hav­ing in-home as­sis­tance, I did not have to go into a nurs­ing home. I could con­tinue to live in my own space and I could spare my long­time girl­friend from hav­ing to quit her job to take care of me.

But so­ci­ety ben­e­fits as well. Even the many hours of as­sis­tance I need cost sig­nif­i­cantly less than nurs­ing-home care. And, by get­ting these sup­ports, I can con­tinue to use my skills — work­ing two part-time jobs and serv­ing on a col­lab­o­ra­tion to ad­vise Colorado’s Depart­ment of Health Care, Pol­icy & Fi­nanc­ing.

I am a Repub­li­can. I voted for and con­tinue to sup­port the Repub­li­can Party — a party that promised I would not lose my Med­i­caid cov­er­age. There is plenty to im­prove in our cur­rent health care sys­tem. Se­nate Repub­li­cans’ health care pro­posal, how­ever, is not bet­ter for me, it is not bet­ter for other peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, and it is not bet­ter for our state.

Trans­fer­ring Med­i­caid to the states based on a sim­ple per-capita al­lo­ca­tion won’t meet the needs of ev­ery­one who needs this to sur­vive. It does not con­sider the num­ber of dis­abled peo­ple need­ing help or the ac­tual cost in states like Colorado where we have a very large ru­ral com­mu­nity as well as ef­fec­tive dis­abil­ity pro­grams. Most states would in­cur a new bur­den they are not ca­pa­ble of han­dling or able to man­age prop­erly.

Peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties will lose ben­e­fits that we need to live. Med­i­caid as we know it will be dev­as­tated, and no in­sur­ance com­pany in­cludes these long-term, home-based ser­vices that we need. We can do bet­ter. I am a strong ad­vo­cate and be­lieve in peo­ple help­ing them­selves. But there are many cases when it’s sim­ply not pos­si­ble. I be­lieve less gov­ern­ment is usu­ally bet­ter. But our gov­ern­ment was formed to help pre­serve and pro­tect the in­alien­able rights of life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness. Med­i­caid and Colorado’s HCBS pro­gram (cre­ated long be­fore the Af­ford­able Care Act) do this for mil­lions of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

I am dis­abled from a mos­quito bite. Dis­abil­ity is not a mo­ral fail­ing. It is not a choice. Med­i­caid and the HCBS pro­gram are what al­low me — and mil­lions of oth­ers — to be ac­tive, work­ing and val­ued mem­bers of our com­mu­ni­ties. Cur­tis Wolff is co-chair of the Colorado Par­tic­i­pan­tDirected Pro­grams Pol­icy Col­lab­o­ra­tive.

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