By MILDRED JANKOWSKI, IRENE ROZUMALSKI, ELEANOR DIETZEN and ANTOINETTE SNYDER
This is an open letter to our state leaders:
Our Chautauqua County Home performs a unique and vital function for our community. This is a real possibility that if our County Home is privatized, residents requiring Medicaid coverage for long-term care will have no place to go or will be placed outside of our immediate area.
The ad hoc committee for the County Home met on Wednesday night.
We have always been a close-knit community. When a loved one requires a stay in our County Home, it is comforting to recognize familiar faces and visit with other families and friends who have been part of our lives for years. We don't want this to change.
There is enough data from New York and other states to demonstrate that privatization often causes Medicaid beds to decrease, staff to decrease and the quality of care to suffer. Our care will be in the hands of investors with little or no accountability to the people who live here. The negative impact of privatization can no longer be ignored.
We have been made aware of "cost-saving" changes in health care and programs that are supposed to "keep us in our homes for as long as possible." If we have Medicaid, how much care will we receive? If we need assisted living, not many of us have the resources required to pay for our stay. When assisted living can no longer meet our needs or we run out of money to pay for it, we will apply for Medicaid and be sent to a nursing home that has an open Medicaid bed for us. If we are lucky, we will be close to home.
If we can afford long-term care insurance, we most likely will fare better than those on Medicaid.
There are more expensive policies that offer more comprehensive long-term care coverage for every setting. However, most of us now could not afford these premiums; and our health problems associated with aging would cause coverage to be denied.
In more rural, less affluent counties like ours, it is already difficult to find good private pay help and retain home services on a consistent, long-term basis.
Those of us who have made the decision to care for ill or disabled loved ones at home are all too aware of the limited services and staff available in this area.
These same problems will be compounded as more individuals are forced by elected officials to use this already strained system to save the government money. Those with less resources and money will get less care.
We are sympathetic to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's challenge to reduce the state deficit. However, we are painfully aware of the ridiculous and wanton governmental spending that has brought us to the situation we are now facing. We had no say in stopping past spending or were we asked our opinions before questionable decisions were made.
We, perhaps foolishly, gave our voice to those elected, trusting they would "do the right thing" and protect our interests. We now feel our interests are not being protected or represented.
The Berger Commission, created by Gov. George Pataki and the state Legislature, precipitated current changes. We are seeing this continued philosophy resulting in decisions made without public scrutiny, and the interests of corporations providing care having precedence over those of us who need care.
Remember, the purpose of our health-care system is to provide care for us, not to make profits for corporations and investors. If aspects of our care are suffering, then someone, somewhere, has made the wrong decision.
The unions were involved in the commission's decisions. The unions need to become involved once again in protecting the interests of its workers, their families, and our communities by doing what is necessary to maintain the viability of our county homes. County homes should not be sacrificed because unions refuse to accommodate to these inherent changes.
We all are, and have been, taxpayers. We are telling you that we want our tax money to help maintain our County Home. We, and our loved ones, want to feel protected and secure in knowing that we have our county facility should we need it. We don't want a commission, realtor, corporation, investor, union, politician or chamber of commerce dictating who gets care, what type of care we should have, when and where we are able to receive it and how long we should get it.
In a lifetime, we've already seen to much of our hard-earned money wasted by government.
It was our money and spending that helped create huge profits seen by corporations and big business. It was our money that helped local business keep this county alive. Now we want some of that back.
This time we want a say. You all are supposed to be our voice. Listen to what we are saying.
It is your duty to find a way to make this work.
Mildred Jankowski, Irene Rozumalski, Eleanor Dietzen and Antoinette Snyder are all Dunkirk residents.