HMOs on Vacation

NEW YORK – Some health maintenance organizations in New York are getting what amounts to a “13-year vacation” from having to comply with the American with Disabilities Act, say advocates for New Yorkers with disabilities who have presented their findings to the Department of Health.

Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY), says the ADA requires that managed-care plans remove barriers to care in ways that help people with disabilities stay healthier. She says the study shows long-term failure by local managed-care plans to meet that responsibility.

“Over the last 14 years, we’ve seen pretty disappointing performance by Medicaid HMOs. They’ve actually made it pretty hard to get help.”

Sixteen other advocacy groups joined CIDNY in presenting the report Friday. Dooha says the state Health Department responded by email on Tuesday, indicating it had received the information and would look into the matter.

Dooha says disability-advocacy groups from around the nation are watching to see how the state of New York responds, since compliance with the ADA is a national concern.

“Health plans are not just ‘dumbing down’ health care. They are also violating federal civil rights law, and making it harder for people with disabilities and frail, elderly people who are very poor to get their care.”

Despite the long period of noncompliance, Dooha says, the New York advocacy groups look forward to working with state health officials and care providers to help them better communicate the health care options for New Yorkers with disabilities.

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