Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Picking on the little guy

Corbett administration imposes a 5% income tax on families of disabled kids

You’ve seen this story unfold before: Gov. Corbett alleges Pennsylvania is in such dire straits that cuts must be made to programs that working Pennsylvanians depend on, while he gives tax credits to out-of-state corporations under the guise of job creation.

Well he’s at it again.

This week DPW implemented a policy it discreetly announced in August to begin collecting co-pays from parents for services provided to their disabled children.  Yep, disabled kids.

Last week DPW Sec. Gary Alexander defended the policy only after those affected and their advocates converged on the Capitol to voice their disapproval. Alexander devised the plan in an effort to make massive cuts in DPW’s budget, a task bestowed upon him by the GOP in 2011.

Under the new policy a family with a disabled child (or children) will have to pay up to 5% of their total household income if they earn 200% of the federal poverty level (about $46,000 a year for a family of four).

It will easily cost families thousands of dollars annually to continue receiving treatment. Some of these children have several medically necessary therapies, diagnostic tests and other services per week. The families I’ve spoken to have said it will force tough decisions between co-payments and basic necessities like housing and food.

The real kicker is in the past, DPW required oversight from the General Assembly or the Independent Regulatory Review Commission to put these kinds of harsh changes in place, but due to a GOP-backed law approved in 2011 Alexander (aka the Gov. Corbett ax wielder) can exercise ultimate control over these decisions. 

What’s really absurd is the new policy isn’t even necessary.

According to the Pennsylvania Health Law Project if DPW were to actually enforce the existing Autism Insurance Coverage Law (on the books since 2008) DPW could save $25 million a year. This new cockamamie plan would only save about $5 million while costing Pennsylvania’s thousands of working families with disabled kids nearly double that since when DPW pays for the services, the feds kick-in about 40 cents on the dollar to help.

The icing on the cake is that DPW has miscalculated the household income for some families by as much as $100,000.

Add this to the list of senseless plans the Corbett administration has rushed to implement and completely mismanaged.  Check back regularly to read more on the Corbett administration’s dysfunction: “Working Hard…to prove government doesn’t work.”