What does the new year hold?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wondered what happened." -- John M. Richardson Jr.

2011 is now behind us and a new year begins, but what does the future hold for us? No one knows for sure, but that does not stop people predicting what the future may hold. Nostradamus, the 16th century French visionary and diviner, is probably the most famous seer of all time. He believed that he could see into the future and made over 6,000 predictions that some argue have come true including the rise of Napoleon, Adolf Hitler and the destruction of the World Trade Center. Nostradamus was not the first, nor will he be the last person who believed he could see into the future based upon vague allusions.

There are those who have made predictions based upon facts and not guesswork. Winston Churchill, during his wilderness years, saw the rise of Nazi Germany and argued in Parliament for increased armaments and less diplomacy; and we all know what happened.

Can we tell what 2012 holds for people with disabilities? Do we have enough facts and information or must we rely upon vague allusions?

Although I am no Nostradamus or Winston Churchill, here is what I predict:

2012 should be a fairly stable year for our program with the state's economy improving monthly. State budget forecasters have predicted that the state will end this budget year with a $300 million surplus which should diminish the governor's desire to continue cutting programs for the poor and less fortunate. With a stabilizing economy, we should see an increase in the number of persons with disabilities employed in the community, as well as more subcontract work in our service centers.

In addition to the improved economy, we will be moving from SRS to the new department of "Aging and Human Services" in July of 2012.

We will miss our contact with the local SRS offices; they have been nothing but compassionate and helpful in their interaction with the people we serve and our employees. Recently, the direction of SRS at the state level has been very questionable and that is putting it nicely, but the departure of Secretary Rob Siedlecki from SRS is a positive first step in improving morale and the vision within SRS.

On the other hand, 2013 will be another matter. On Jan. 1, 2013, managed care is scheduled to go online in Kansas.

Anytime you give an out- of-state, insurance company over one-third of your budget, things will not go well. Gov. Sam Brownback has promised that the managed care companies will be required to "maintain current benefit levels, maintain current provider rates and improve the quality of care." I hope he is correct, but we all know that in order to save $367 million over the next five years, something has to give. In Wisconsin, which is one of the states Kansas has modeled their managed care RFP on, providers had their rates cut 15 percent in order for the managed care companies to reach their profit goal. If our rates, which are far below what the state's own studies indicate we should be paid, are cut 15 percent, we will end up eliminating over 30 jobs. That will only increase the unemployment rate in Southeast Kansas and take more people off of the tax rolls. More importantly, it will drastically affect the people we serve. This will be hard on those family members who have fought their entire lives to ensure that their loved ones are taken care of. To see the system begin to move backwards is frustrating for thousands of Kansans, including myself; to see something you have worked so hard for suddenly destroyed in front of your eyes.

During difficult economic times we must all make sacrifices and we have definitely endured our sacrifice, but to continue to require additional sacrifices (Managed Care) during an economic upturn is beyond me.

I hope I am wrong about my thoughts on 2013, Governor Brownback will keep his word and I am not left "wondering what happened."

Editor's Note: Tim Cunningham is the executive director of Tri-Valley Developmental Services, which serves developmentally disabled people in Allen, Bourbon, Neosho and Woodson counties.