Peggy Cooley wasn’t at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s meeting in Washington D.C. last week to hear Ohio Gov. John Kasich tell a new crowd his story of faith and how his calling is to help people who live in the shadows.
Ohio’s governor said he’s been called by the Lord to lift everyone up no matter their circumstances, as he famously promised to do last year if Ohio voters gave him a second term. They did, even though voter turnout was the lowest in about 70 years, with Ohio’s go-go CEO governor still getting viewer than one in four registered voters to vote for him
“I’m thrilled that we are helping people in our state who have lived in the shadows far too long,” he said to his Faith and Freedom Coalition audience, the AP reported.
Had Peggy Cooley been there, she would have sung a very different song from the one Ohio’s Music Man governor was tooting his horn about. To Cooley, the parent and legal guardian for her daughter who lives with complex/multiple developmental disabilities and who receives home and community based Medicaid waiver services [HCBS] through the Ohio’s Department of Developmental Disabilities, Gov. Kasich could put his beliefs in helping people living in the shadows in practice by not shuttering two developmental disability centers, one in Montgomery County and one in Youngstown, as his budget plan prescribes.
Peggy Cooley said she’s exhausted from the process she got dragged into following a text message from a friend who informed her that the Kasich Administration was proposing the elimination of 14,000 Independent Providers, who were providing critical HBCS services to 16,000 consumers. “My child was included in this group and I signed up for Facebook in a desperate attempt to communicate and connect with others who were similarly affected by this proposal,” she told me via email.
“What I discovered over the past three months is so disturbing that I must share it with the media,” she said. “I have strong reason (coupled with lots of data) to believe that Greg Moody (Ohio Health Transition) and John McCarthy (Ohio Medicaid) deliberately set out to make a case for prevalent fraud among Independent Providers by targeting certain providers who were providing nursing care to consumers receiving case management through Carestar and who were audited by PCG (Public Consulting Group). In brief, this was accomplished by targeting certain nurses, then fining them ridiculously large sums of money by PCG for frivolous citations and then coerced into paying hard earned income back to the Ohio Department of Medicaid.”
Cooley says she has submitted four letters of testimony throughout the budget process. “I am sending you the fourth letter of testimony, but would be happy to share the previous three letters. I have literally hundreds of comments that I can share with you that describe the pain and stress that has occurred as the direct result of these actions taken by Moody and McCarthy. I have worked ceaselessly for over three months: I have examined so many documents I am exhausted by the whole mess,” she said.
Kasich plan explainers said in March that possible liability for independent home-care workers’ pay and benefits for Ohio under new federal labor rules was as prominent a factor as fraud. Gary Tonks, executive director of the ARC of Ohio, saw it differently. “We got them to admit that they rolled it out incorrectly,” Tonks told the Columbus Dispatch. “They said the reason was fraud. The real reason is about the Fair Labor Standards Act.”
The executive director of Disability Rights Ohio [DRO] said at the time that the Kasich Administration is to blame for distrust and apprehension that was unnecessary by not discussing the plan before including it in the budget. Michael Kirkman of DRO said the miscalculation was deep and the justification was superficial given the complexity of the situation. Greg Moody, who worked with Kasich in Congress and has been, along with John McCarthy who runs Medicaid in Ohio two individuals so important to the governor that he doesn’t want them riding in the same vehicle, believes fraud is important. Meanwhile, Mr. Moody has said he wants to create “more ways for consumers to be able to choose the people who care for them, including, in some cases, family members.”
In Gov. Kasich’s plan, no new independent providers would be allowed to bill Ohio Medicaid for home-care services beginning in July 2016, reports said, noting that those with unexpired certifications could continue until July 2019. At that time they would have to be employed by agencies, the consumers or their agents. Others who analyze new labor laws don’t see it the way Greg Moody does. Policy Matters Ohio, an independent economic think tank based in Cleveland, says the new Department of Labor rules will ensure fairer wages and hours for home-care workers. Changes will help to stabilize the growing home-care industry and improve quality of care, PMO notes.
The Labor Department also clarified rules applying to home-care workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which will improve time-keeping so these workers get paid for all hours worked. “Most of us have the right to wage and hour protections under federal labor law,” Wendy Patton, author of the brief and a senior project director at PMO, said. “Extending the rules to home-care workers will protect and benefit the workers in one of the fastest-growing occupations in Ohio.”
Advocates and activists, including Cooley and Robin Tarr, aren’t buying it. They have been working to stop the closures of the Montgomery and Youngstown Developmental Centers are being urged to call Governor Kasich’s office to ask for support in keeping the centers open. The request is more urgent with less than a week remaining for Gov. Kasich, who is visiting other states in his bid to be the Republican nominee for president next year after his widely anticipated announcement soon that he’s declaring his candidacy, to sign his third and record budget deal of over $71 billion.
Cooley is not alone, others also want Mr. Kasich to put his words of compassion into a demonstration in reality for those living in the shadows. Tarr, who Plunderbund previously wrote about, is another advocate for keeping open the Montgomery and Youngstown center, where her brother has resided for most of his adult life.
Cooley and Tarr are just two people whose compassion for family members receiving services is unbounded except for the bonds Gov. Kasich will rip asunder if his good angels don’t redirect his heart strings back from campaigning for the White House to caring for those living in his state in the darkest of shadows. Advocates for reversing Kasich’s plan to shut these developmental centers down say they need the Governor’s support of the Closure Commission language in the bill that would require a 13-member panel to review the closure of any Developmental Center. One group of caregivers, the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, wants a closure commission panel to assess the system before rash decisions are made for the wrong reasons. On that panel, should it become law, would sit a representative from OCSEA and at least one parent representing each of the two facilities.
Cooley isn’t a paid lobbyist, but her currency of compassion on these closures is genuine, maybe more so than Gov. Kasich’s words of helping when his help is called out for being unhelpful. In her second testimony appearance she tried to “shed some light on the charade behind the revised budget proposal to increase self direction to HCBS waivers and to express my concerns that my daughter’s legal rights not be denied her by the Kasich Administration as a result of the changes in the federal labor law.” In late April when she appeared for the third time to offer guidance, she warned of the “volatility and the mistrust that currently exists between the disabled community and the Kasich Administration.” Her aim has been to reinstate the funding that represented a historic investment of monies for Ohio’s Developmental Disabilities system.
But maybe the fourth time was the charm for Cooley. “Thousands of Governor Kasich’s most recent victims, myself included, have had to drop everything for the past three months and work ceaselessly to protect the rights of our loved ones who live with complex/multiple disabilities and to defend the integrity, honor and necessity of keeping our Independent Providers who provide our loved ones with critically needed home health care needs,” she said, adding, “My daughter’s IPs are like family and I have no intention of losing them!!!”
Peggy Cooley told me she was desperate to fight for her daughter’s life. “I made the decision to sign up for Facebook in hopes of connecting with other consumers and providers who were being impacted by this Executive Budget. I couldn’t stop asking myself the question:’How can a freaking budget proposal be the reason for this threat to my child? How is this even possible?” she wondered. Cooley described what she found in the world of social media as a “witch hunt” on Independent Providers that had apparently been going on for over a year. “It was gut wrenching and heart breaking to hear their stories. It made me sick !!!”
“Nurses and aides who take care of people with complex needs were being ‘targeted’ and being fined ridiculously large sums of money for frivolous citations by Public Consulting Group, an auditing group brought into our state by the Ohio Medicaid Department. These providers had no one to turn to for help. The consumers, who should have been able to look for help from their Case Managers with Carestar, were getting nowhere.”
Kasich’s Uncompassionate Budget Bomb
Gov. Kasich is on record saying he’s “playing for a bigger game than that, which is really my eternal salvation, (which) is what matters to me. I think I’ve got it.” With the clock ticking down to balanced budget time, Gov. Kasich has been spotted in Iowa, Utah, New Hampshire, Michigan, South Carolina, Nevada, Wyoming, New York City and the nation’s capital, but not in Montgomery County or Youngstown Ohio, where those who can do with some lifting up, as Mr. Kasich promised Ohioans last year and is promising the nation this year live.
If Gov. Kasich thinks he’s “got it,” he surely doesn’t have it if he thinks God wants him to throw the least among us and those who care for them out of their homes and into risky environments, where profits trump protection. His concern, as he so succintly said, is about saving his eternal soul, not the thousands whose lives will be further debilitated because he wants to find more taxpayer dollars to give away in tax cuts to the wealthiest Ohioans.
It would be sad for God if He wants Ohio’s executive to pursue his future first over those who’s past has been grim and whose future appears darker still if the governor’s hurtful budget becomes law in six days.