The right of choosing where to live


Hannah Soyer
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As Ron Swanson on the hit TV show “Parks and Rec” memorably quips, “The whole point of this country is if you want to eat garbage, balloon up to 600 pounds,

and die of a heart attack at 43, you can.” Ron is hitting on something Americans seem to treasure: individual freedom to make choices. The problem with his statement is that many Americans do not have the ability to choose. I would argue that the population that this is most true of is people with disabilities.

However, a bill that was introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, last year would give the power of choice back to Americans living with disabilities, at least in the area of living situations. This bill is called the Community Integration Act, and it must be reintroduced this year.

The system of funding for health care for people with disabilities is complex, confusing, and often seems like a giant bureaucratic monster that on top of not being able to serve its constituents in the best way, also can’t quite figure out how to run itself. I know this because it is something my parents or I have had to deal with my entire life, because of my physical disability.

Because I, along with many other people with disabilities, rely on others to literally help us get through each day, I have personal-care assistants with me pretty much 24/7, especially when I’m living at the University of Iowa. The biggest hurdle in this process is figuring out how all of this care is going to be funded.

As I said earlier, it’s very complicated, and I won’t try to explain all of it here. Essentially, however, I receive funding through a variety of federal, state, and local services. Unfortunately, my eligibility to receive these services varies depending on how old I am, if I’m in school, if I’m working, and where I’m living. Honestly, at the moment, I have no idea how I am going to continue living on my own (read: not with my parents) after I graduate. The future does slightly scare me (this may be an understatement), no less so because I have heard many horror stories of people with disabilities eventually having to move back in with their parents because there’s no funding to support the care they need, or worse, into a nursing home or other institution where individual freedom just really isn’t a thing.

Of the co-sponsors of the Community Integration Act, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is the only one of these senators still in office, and it is vital that he continue to voice his support for this bill and reintroduce it to the Senate this session.

Essentially, the Community Integration Act makes it illegal for states and insurance providers to deny funding for people with disabilities for support that makes it possible for them to live on their own. The goal of the act is to slowly reduce the number of people with disabilities living in institutions and instead give them the option to live in freedom, as is their civil right. A bill such as this must take precedence if America wants to live up to its mantra of individual freedom.

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