COVID-19 Medi-Nurse Line for Uninsured or Medi-Cal Beneficiaries with No Regular Source of Care – 1-877-409-9052

As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase the need for accurate and timely medical information is absolutely critical. People who are uninsured or have Medi-Cal, but no regular source of care, experience significant challenges accessing information and care during this pandemic. Presumptive Eligibility (PE) for COVID-19 was implemented on April 8, 2020 and is available to individuals to seek the necessary COVID-19 diagnostic testing, testing-related services, and treatment services, including all medically necessary care such as the associated office, clinic, or emergency room visits related to COVID-19 at no cost to the individuals.

The California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS)has recently launched a 24 hour/ 7 days a week Medi-Nurse phone line specifically to address questions and concerns related to COVID 19 for people who are uninsured or have Medi-Cal but no regular source of care.

Medi-Nurse services are available in multiple languages to provide information on COVID-19 – symptoms, testing, when, where and how to seek treatment – and how to apply for health insurance if needed. If you, or someone you know, are uninsured or a Medi-Cal beneficiary that does not have a regular source of care and experiencing symptoms that could be COVID-19 related do not delay accessing medical advice. Call 1-877-409-9052 and speak to a Medi-Nurse.

COVID-19 Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or Body Aches
  • Headache
  • New Loss of Taste or Smell
  • Sore Throat
  • Congestion/Runny Nose
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

 

 

 

Sacramento Did its Job, Now it’s up to Washington to Protect People with Disabilities

Despite the optimism surrounding California’s re-opening, the number of new COVID-19 cases stubbornly rises. The economy, bolstered by better than expected unemployment numbers, struggles to re-start and gain a solid foothold. Based on what we’re seeing, our recovery will be a long, laborious and expensive process.

As a coalition of statewide and regional associations and organizations representing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families and support staff, we know that our State won’t fully recover unless and until we protect Californians who are most vulnerable at this time.

Thankfully, Governor Gavin Newsom and the Legislature rose to the challenge by protecting Californians with developmental disabilities in this year’s budget. Facing the most challenging deficit in a decade, our leaders preserved funding for the more than 360,000 individuals statewide (as well as their families and direct support professionals) that make-up the disability community.

On behalf of the Lanterman Coalition, we wholeheartedly thank our state elected officials for their leadership when we needed it the most.

However important this year’s state funding may be, it is important that our federal lawmakers advocate for the needs of the disability community during the COVID-19 threat too. In her proposed HEROES Act, Congressional House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prioritized state of emergency funding for our community with several important provisions, and now we need her Congressional colleagues to follow her lead.

Leadership from California state and federal elected officials could not come at a more critical time. Talk of the “new normal” is anything but. For the disability community, this phrase represents a massive understatement. Our community faces significant concerns. Many people with disabilities have pre-existing conditions that place them at greater risk of complications from COVID-19. They also carry greater exposure and transmission risks, particularly for those individuals living in a residential group home setting staffed by frontline direct support personnel.

So, for California’s disability community, adjusting to the “new normal” with modified programs that minimize exposure to COVID-19 and keeps our most vulnerable safe necessitates significant – and costly – changes.

As families and caregivers eye the future, efforts to provide quality of life and, in many cases, life-sustaining support will look much different as we implement many new safety protocols for our community. These mandates will have a major economic impact to disability service providers as they modify services, reduce in-person day program ratios and maintain social distancing. Some of the pandemic-related operational costs will include personal protective equipment, additional sanitation practices, more frequent transportation with lower ratios, increasing staff wages for those working on the front lines, testing equipment, new technology to facilitate remote services, and other modifications that aren’t yet known.

As this public health crisis continues to evolve, these modifications will remain in place until we achieve what Governor Newsom has described as “herd immunity” or until we discover a vaccine or viable treatment. It could take months to fully resume programs as they were before the pandemic.

As our state grows accustomed to these changes, it will be critical that we ensure continuity of care for individuals with disabilities. State and federal support is not only necessary, it’s essential for support staff to provide critical support services to Californians with disabilities.

The Legislature and Governor will re-evaluate the budget in August when the depth of our economic recovery, federal relief and the tax receipts are known. In the meantime, our community cannot wait given that we face an uncertain future. It’s essential that the federal government – the president and Congress – step up to help now.

Sacramento has done its job. As has Speaker Pelosi. Now it’s time for the U.S. Senate to focus its attention on issues that truly matter in July when the U.S. Senate resumes session and will be making critical decisions about emergency relief funding to the disability community during the pandemic.
We must do everything possible to minimize the impact of this outbreak on those with disabilities, and we urge our federal leaders to work to ensure any final bi-partisan agreement on the next COVID assistance legislation includes the provisions in the House bill.

On behalf of the more than 360,000 Californians with disabilities and their families, thank you Governor Newsom, the California Legislature, and our federal elected officials for your leadership. The funding decisions you make to protect vital support services and keep our community whole speak volumes about your priorities.

Visit TheLantermanCoalition.org to learn more about how you can become an advocate for those with developmental disabilities.


Jordan Lindsey, Executive Director, The Arc of California and Chair, The Lanterman Coalition

About The Lanterman Coalition – www.thelantermancoalition.org

The Lanterman Coalition is a coalition of statewide and regional associations and organizations representing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families and the workforce. It works to uphold the principles of the The Lanterman Act by advocating on behalf of Californians with developmental disabilities. Under this Act, the person with a developmental disability is entitled to receive services that enable the individual to live a more independent and productive life in an inclusive community.

COVID-19 Tips

The California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) hosts an Access and Functional Needs Leadership call every week to discuss critical issues for people with AFN, their families, friends, and services providers. This week on the call, Cal OES highlighted a partnership with LISTOS California, the State Council of Developmental Disabilities, and the Department of Developmental Services to provide accessible and accurate information for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The materials include corona virus safety tips, self-care-tips, making a plan, and creating a health profile. These downloadable info-graphs are available in several different languages at: https://www.listoscalifornia.org

Emergency Preparedness During COVID-19

The mere idea that we could have to deal with a natural disaster during this pandemic is undoubtedly overwhelming, but the reality is California is in wildfire season, earthquakes are always a possibility in this state, and other disasters exist that we may not even think of. So, how do we plan for an emergency is a state of emergency? The experts tell us that planning and being prepared makes a critical difference. Many of us likely have disaster plans but most plans likely don’t include COVID-19. The 3P’s of emergency or disaster planning – plan, prepare and practice – will help guide you as you think about where to begin if you don’t have a plan, or how to update your existing plan.

First, have a PLAN that everyone – family members, friends, neighbors, support staff, co-workers, employees, etc. – knows about. Everyone’s plan will be different, for example, if you have family or friends that live a couple hours away your plan might be to stay with them in the event of a public safety power shutdown (PSPS) or evacuation. Your plan might include a specific meeting place in the event you are in different locations if you get an evacuation notice. If your only option is to shelter somewhere besides your home The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers some guidance on how to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Second, PREPARE for both sheltering at home and away from your home. This means have 2 “kits” ready. The home kit should include all the essentials that you would have for a disaster – a week’s supply of food, water, medicine, hygiene products, batteries, flashlights, first aid kit, etc. – the Red Cross has a comprehensive assessment tool to help people with disabilities assess and prepare for their individual needs. The second kit should be kept in the vehicle you plan to use if you need to evacuate or in a place you can easily access. The Red Cross disaster guide also has a list of what you should have if you need to leave your home. Remember to include person protective equipment (PPE) – masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, etc. – in your kits.

Third, PRACTICE your plan with everyone! Do disaster drills and practice emergency communications – such as calling or texting – with your family, friends and support network. Practice loading the car, leaving and discuss where you would go and why.

A couple other things to remember; call your utility company and see if they have an opt-in for emergency notifications or PSPS notifications, check to see if you qualify for the medical baseline program, and ask the utility company where you can get information on charging stations for battery operated equipment.

The ADA Network is hosting a Learning Session: California’s Emergency Plans for Wildfire Season in a COVID-19 Environment on July 9th. This webinar is a great way to find out more about preparing and emergency plan.

BE SAFE, BE WELL AND BE PREPARED!

Two Federal Civil Rights Policy Changes Which Will Affect Patients With Disabilities During COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 9th, in response to the first federal complaint challenging discriminatory hospital “no-visitor” policies, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced a resolution making clear that federal law requires hospitals and the state agencies overseeing them to modify policies to ensure patients with disabilities can safely access the in-person supports needed to benefit from medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read The Arc’s full press release here.

Highlights from the hospital policy announced by OCR and Connecticut include that it:

  • Requires all hospitals and other health care facilities to allow designated persons (family members, staff, or others) to support any disabled patient that may need such support;
  • Requires hospitals to provide available personal protective equipment (PPE) to support persons to keep them safe;
  • Includes procedures for screening support persons for COVID-19 symptoms and for supporters to safely take breaks and leave and re-enter the hospital; and
  • Encourages hospitals to mitigate the risk associated with support persons supporting COVID-19-positive patients.

________

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 12th, The same office, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), finalized their ACA Section 1557 Rule which removes discrimination protections from LGBTQ people seeking health care and health insurance. Specifically, the rule redefines “sex discrimination” as only applying when someone is being discriminated against on the basis of their assigned sex at birth.

Under the new rule LGBTQ people, especially transgender people, can be denied medical care on the basis of their gender with no federal legal protection. This rule goes beyond the ability for providers to refuse gender transition related care. Doctors can refuse to treat transgender patients altogether.

How are these rules related?

The resolution clarifying that hospitals must allow in-person support for people with disabilities will undoubtedly save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet there are many in the disability community who are also transgender people. Many of whom have complex medical needs which are now at risk of going unmet. While the fact sheet issued by HHS’s OCR on ACA Section 1557 rule specifies that it protects individuals with disabilities, the rule itself removes transgender people with disabilities from this protection.

UPDATE:

Unlike many states California has regulations in place at the state level which protect transgender people’s access to health care. Medi-Cal also has specific protections in place for transgender patients. Click here to view an interactive map which shows which states do and do not have these protections.

 

HEROES Act

All of the work that The Arc network has done since March to show that #WeAreEssential showed up in the Heroes Act that was introduced in the House of Representatives this week. The House is expected to pass the nearly $3 trillion package. The HEROES Act will then move to the Senate where we are not anticipating immediate action. The latest COVID-19 relief package includes many crucial provisions for people with I/DD and their families but it will be negotiated and narrowed down in the Senate. We’ve definitely made progress, but we have MUCH more to do to make sure that the dedicated HCBS funding and our other priorities stay in the bill that ultimately becomes law.
View the full provisions of the HEROES Act here.

The California Senate is Set to Return May 11, 2020

The California Senate is set to return on May 11, 2020. The Senate Committee Hearing schedules can be found here: https://www.senate.ca.gov/dailyfile. All hearings and floor sessions are live streamed, and can be found here: https://www.senate.ca.gov/calendar

The Senate policies and procedures will be similar to the Assembly which was posted last week. In their words:

NOTICE: While we remain under stay at home orders, the Senate is committed to facilitating the ability of the public to take part in the senate proceedings, and will provide safe opportunities for public participation. The Senate will livestream the hearing on our website at www.sen.ca.gov. The public may submit comment or testimony in writing to the committee, or participate via telephone at the conclusion of the hearing, during the public comment period.

To call in during the public comment period, please dial the phone number provided by the Chair of the committee at the time of the hearing or find the number posted on the committee website. As is our normal practice, public comment will be accepted at the conclusion of each bill presentation.

We strongly discourage in person attendance, but individuals wishing to attend the hearing in person are advised that we must balance the opportunity for the public to participate in the legislative process, with the critical need to protect public health. As such, we are required to strictly enforce the physical distancing guidelines mandated by state and local public health officials. Entry into the Capitol will require all persons to adhere to these guidelines:

  • Do not enter the Capitol if you have a cough or fever.
  • If you have had the virus, and are required to remain at home and monitor symptoms, watch and participate from home.
  • Maintain a minimum six-foot distance from others.
  • Capitol restrooms are equipped with soap, please wash hands often, and use hand sanitizer.

In order to maintain physical distancing, seating will be limited. If we cannot provide you with a seat consistent with physical distancing requirements, you can watch on the Senate website. Those who attend in person will be required to follow directions from the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms.

  • The public is highly encouraged to use face coverings.
  • The admission into the Capitol will commence 15 minutes before the hearing.
  • Temperature checks will be required as part of the screening process for admission into the Capitol.

Senators Feinstein and Harris Urge the Senate to Fund Special Education in Future COVID-19 Relief Efforts

Last week Senators Feinstein and Harris joined 23 of their colleagues in signing on to a letter urging Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Schumer to ensure that funding for special education and protection of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is included in all future COVID-19 relief efforts. In the letter the senators explicitly call for funding both during the shelter in place orders as well as funding that will help students transition back to in person learning once schools reopen stating:

“These service adjustments are not meant to be a one-to-one tradeoff for services missed during COVID-19, but a plan to help students get back on track if they have regressed. We must help ensure that students continue to progress during this pandemic, and we believe that any waiver of IDEA will undermine that objective.”

Read the full letter here.

20 United States Senators Push for Disability Specific Relief in Next Covid-19 Stimulus Package

In response to constant advocacy efforts by the disability community, a bi-partisan letter signed by 20 U.S. senators was sent to congressional leadership requesting disability specific funding in the next stimulus bill. The letter proposes a $50 billion increase in funding for Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) programs, paid sick leave for people with disabilities and their caregivers, a boost in Medicaid funding, and emergency income relief. The letter also calls for a 12% increase in the Medicaid matching rate and calls for the permanent reauthorization of Money Follows the person.

A copy of the letter can be read here.

CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLYMEMBERS SEEK TO PROTECT SERVICES FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES DURING PANDEMIC

As California continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic and our state’s budget outlook looks bleaker by the week, several members of the Legislature are stepping forward to make sure services and supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are protected. Last week members of the Assembly Select Committee on Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, led by the Chair of that committee, Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D – Contra Costa), sent a letter to the Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, Assemblyman Phil Ting (D – San Francisco) requesting that the Budget Committee “hold harmless” services and supports and protect people with I/DD and their families during this extraordinary budget process. Specifically, the letter stated:

“Historically, services and support for people with I/DD have been overlooked, with high direct support staff turnover due to low wages, long waitlists for early intervention and other services, essential programs closing across the state, and unmanageable regional center caseload ratios. The state’s own rate study concluded that DDS services and supports were underfunded by $1.8 billion. That critical need and continued lack of funding is compounded by the current pandemic, resulting in greater need for direct service providers and a much greater need for family supports at home.

Earlier this year I proposed a plan to continue to close the massive underfunding to developmental services and implement the rate study over three years. The recent changes in our budget and your subsequent April 6 memo makes that plan currently untenable. However, reductions to the investments made last year to this community – a community that is still recovering from budget cuts made in the last recession – should not be included in this budget.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen direct support professionals answer the call, risking their own health to continue to support Californians with I/DD. Families and caregivers too face new challenges while sheltering in place with their loved ones with I/DD.

If ever there was a time to honor our commitment and obligation to the entire I/DD community and those who are helping to keep them safe and healthy, it is now. We have made modest gains to promote and provide necessary services to this vulnerable population, and any further attempt to erode or eliminate services should not be considered in the cuts that will surely take place in this current budget.”

The full letter can be read here.