Last week, Governor Charles Crist of Florida vetoed a scheduled 2.5 percent cut in the amount that providers who work within the mentally challenged community will be paid for their services.  However, Crist did not veto a 2.5 percent that the legislature passed in the amount of services that mentally challenged people can purchase.

At first, this was seen as a great victory for our community.  However, thoughtful providers and advocates are having second thoughts about the true benefits for consumers and for the people who labor to make their lives better.

Had both been vetoed, this would have been a win-win situation for providers and for people purchasing services or the consumer.  Using the analogy of the old-time company store, if you purchase all of your supplies from the company store and your salary is cut from $10 a week to $7.50, this is a problem.  Yet, if the prices in the company store are also cut by an equal amount, people purchasing goods in the store will not see a cut in what they receive.  Flour that was once $1 is now, $.75.  Therefore the purchaser does not see any decrease in what they can purchase.

A short-sighted view says that providers have won.  But is that really true?  Some providers and advocates are having second thought.  After all, if the company store is still selling flour for $1 and consumers only have $.75 to purchase that bag of flour, no amount of figuring will mean that the store owner will make the same amount of money at the end of the week.  Providers and consumers have received a cut, whether we like it or not. 

In this case, salaries of consumers were cut but the prices of what can be purchased in the company store was not cut.  Some providers are seeing this situation is almost as bad for them and certainly worse for the consumer.  If as a consumer, I have always had $10 to spend in the store and now I have only $7.50, I’m looking for some place to cut my expenses.

As a provider, I may be paid the same amount of money for an hour of physical therapy but the consumers I serve can only afford to purchase 45 minutes of therapy.  I am only going to be paid $.75 for my services.  As a provider, I have lost $.25. 

Governor Crist did not do a favor for the providers by vetoing this bill.  And, providers are gradually realizing that this was not a victory for them or for the consumers.  As they are doing the math, they are putting away the confetti and plans for a victory party!

As those involved in Christian ministry within the mentally challenged community, we must continue to pray for wisdom from our elected officials and the providers who work within our community

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