schmudget has moved to our new website ( If you're not redirected automatically, click here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Today is the last installment in a special series on General Assistance-Unemployable, a state program that provides assistance to adults who cannot work because of disability and are not eligible for other programs.

We all hope that if we become disabled or struggle with a mental illness, we will have the economic security and support we need to recover, get back to work, and maintain a modest quality of life. The General Assistance-Unemployable program provides that for thousands of people in our state.

Washington lawmakers have proposed eliminating or reducing the state's GA-U program as a cost-saving measure. But what will happen in Washington if there is no General Assistance for adults with disabilities?

Recipients of GA-U have serious health problems that require ongoing medical care. The GA-U program offers health benefits in the form of fee-for-service medical coupons, or in Pierce and King Counties, a managed care plan. Without these benefits, GA-U clients are more likely to seek care in hospital emergency rooms and community health clinics which are required to provide health care regardless of a patient's ability to pay. This is not a cost-efficient choice for the state: Non-reimbursed health care in a hospital ER, for example, costs the state up to four times as much as an average doctor's visit.

The loss of medical benefits is also likely to lead to a worsening of physical and mental problems for GA-U clients. At the very least, this will prolong the time they are unable work and at worst, could lead to dire outcomes for clients.

What about eliminating the cash assistance provided to GA-U clients? Currently GA-U recipients receive $339 per month to help pay for basic needs. This includes rent for low-income housing, food, and medicine. With no income, some GA-U clients are likely to lose their ability to maintain housing, which will have an impact on their health and future employment status.

Eliminating General Assistance is not the right way for our state to go. Oregon, which got rid of its GA program in 2003, is in the process of reinstating its General Assistance program with support of the Governor’s office. Without assistance, disabled Oregonians found themselves in emergency rooms and on the streets, unable to become healthy and work. We are likely to see the same outcomes here in Washington.

No comments: