By Jessica Cutcliffe
On June 9, 2011, Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) spoke on safeguarding vulnerable populations at the Center for American Progress, the same day that the World Health Organization released a comprehensive health report on persons with disabilities. The W.H.O. report, done in conjunction with The World Bank, identifies 15 percent of the world’s population as having a disability. The analysis points out that a large sector of this population faces unequal access to health care. In some cases these disparities in the care system are made more pronounced by poverty. A common interest of Cardin and researchers of the W.H.O. report, many themselves disabled, is working to guarantee people their right to a high standard of care. Could safety net programs, such as Medicare, be the answer?
The answer or not, privatizing Medicare, Cardin would contend, is NOT the solution. In his remarks at the event, “Strengthening Families: Developing a Progressive Agenda that Promotes Family Stability and Cuts Poverty” he voiced his concern for protecting the health and wellbeing of seniors and persons with disabilities. Standing firm in his support of Medicare, he vowed to fight for the preservation of safety net programs. Without these programs seniors and persons with disabilities can slip through the cracks. We bore witness to this with a reported one third of U.S. seniors living in poverty prior to the establishment of Medicare and Social Security.
Whether seniors accept their changing health conditions as a fact of the aging process or choose to claim the disability label, it cannot be disputed that “older people are disproportionately represented in the disability population” (W.H.O. & T.W.B., p. 35). Disability is not a static designation based on health status but is defined as a fluid concept that can describe ones changing health conditions or describe the ways in which a person interacts with their physical and social environment (W.H.O. & T.W.B., p. 5). Regardless of who chooses to claim the label of disabled as a marker of their identity, access to health care should be a right guaranteed to all people. If Medicare in the U.S. is not sustained, how will this affect the already limited access to health care services that many seniors and people with disabilities, both young and old, currently face?
Link to full World Health Organization and The World Bank: World Report on Disability http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2011/9789240685215_eng
If YOU care about healthcare and access for seniors and people with disabilities, join Break the Chain Campaign at the first national Care Congress on July 12th in DC: