Volunteer health advocates meet with officials in Columbus

Nan Baker and Mel Maurer

In conjunction with MS (Multiple Scerlosis) Awareness Month in Ohio, I was one of about 40 volunteers attending MS Advocacy Day in Columbus on March 22.

This is an annual event during which those attending have a continental breakfast with state senators, representatives and members of their staffs; receive some training on issues affecting those with disabilities and then, by teams, visit lawmakers in their offices.

My team of five first visited Rep. Marlene Anielski of the 17th District. She had a conflicting meeting so she was not able to spend much time with us, leaving her top aide to hear our issues. We then visited the offices of our district’s representative, Nan Baker. Rep. Baker welcomed us into her office and took the time to hear from each of us, making me proud to be in her district.

Our main issue this year was the “Bundling of Ancillary Services” which went into effect several years ago. This was an attempt by the legislators to “draw down” more federal money to Ohio by bundling some services into a per diem rate of $3.91 for patients in nursing homes needing these services.

Unfortunately, the services included transportation and wheelchairs which proved to be too costly to provide for the per diem, so in many cases patients are now going without them. House Bill 156 has recently been introduced to correct this problem by unbundling these much-needed equipment and services while bundling some pharmaceuticals so that there will be no overall increase in cost to the system.

During our visits to about 45 lawmakers that day, we asked their support for House Bill 156, first as co-sponsors and then as voters for it. While we did not get immediate commitments from those visited – that rarely happens – we were encouraged with the receptions we received and the attention paid to this problem.

Mel Maurer

Mel Maurer lives in Westlake.

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Volume 3, Issue 8, Posted 6:31 PM, 04.19.2011