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Disability Pride Month: Cut in Medicaid spending means cut in quality of life of disabled Americans

While providing quality health care seems to be at the top of the agenda for the Trump Administration, policies contained within the revised Senate Republican health care bill would leave millions of disabled children and adults without Medicaid benefits. According to the recent analysis of the Senate bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), undertaken by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), by 2026, there would be an estimated $772 billion cut in Medicaid spending. A similar analysis of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) had revealed that implementation of the same would also result in an estimated $880 billion cut in Medicaid spending, over the same period.

A joint program between the state and federal governments, Medicaid provides insurance primarily to people with disabilities, single parents, pregnant women and senior citizens with low incomes. At present, the government program supports nearly 74 million Americans, wherein the federal government matches the Medicaid spending of the states. However, the BCRA and the AHCA would change that.

Low-income seniors and people with disabilities

The new legislation would cut federal Medicaid funding, repeal most of Obamacare’s taxes, phase out Obamacare expansion of Medicaid health insurance for poor and disabled across the nation, overhaul insurance subsidies under Obamacare, and end penalty on Americans for not obtaining insurance cover. While the Senate GOP plans to introduce the health bill this week, questions pertaining to Medicaid cuts and coverage requirements leave its fate in question.

Although Republican senators have been assuring the public that the bill would not cut Medicaid assistance to the disabled, according to them and the family of children with special needs, if implemented, the bill would cut into supports which would affect their quality of life.

The new health bill would allow the state governments to set a cap on the Medicaid spending on each person, effective 2020. The cap would cut federal contributions to Medicaid to about $116 billion. Strapped for cash, the states would be forced to limit aid to the disabled people in the form of oxygen tanks, wheelchairs and even care attendants. Without access to these services, disabled people across the nation may face mass hospitalization which would remove them from the comfort of their homes and their communities.

Protests against cuts in Medicaid

Shouting slogans against the bill and sharing their personal stories about the effect the new health care bill would have on their lives, an estimated 100 protestors demonstrated at the offices of Republicans like Sen. Rob Portman and Sen. Jeff Flake at the U.S. Capitol, on July 10, 2017. According to the state police, they arrested 80 people for protesting the health care bill in Washington D.C.

Another such sit-in was organized last week by several activists with disabilities at Senator Flake’s Phoenix office. While many raised their voices, some were arrested for trespassing. According to Gabrielle Ficchi, one of the protestors, “We fought so hard to have our right to live in the community recognized, and now… we’re still fighting for our freedom from incarceration in institutions.” Citing the importance of home and community-based services, otherwise taken for granted by many, she added that “Home and community services are what allow us to do our jobs, live our lives, and raise our families.”

While the past few weeks have witnessed disability advocates being forcibly removed from legislative buildings in states across the country, with multiple arrests for crowding, trespassing and obstructing or incommoding being reported, it seems like protestors are not yet willing to give in.

Choice between children, elderly and the disabled

As per the Democrats, the new Republican bill is a giveaway to the rich and would hurt the poor and the most vulnerable sections of the American society. The bill has also faced criticisms from the Republican front with President Trump reportedly calling the bill “mean” and Ohio Governor John Kasich aligning himself with the Grand Old Party (GOP) to push back the bill.

According to Governor Kasich, the current health care bill means a choice between children, elderly and the disabled. “If you cut $750 billion out of Medicaid, and in the out years you basically starve the program, we have to choose between children, seniors, the disabled, the addicted, the mentally ill,” said Gov. Kasich in an interview with the ABC News host Martha Raddatz.

The road ahead

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the American with Disability Act (ADA), the Mayor of New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio had declared July as the Disability Pride Month, in 2015. To venerate the occasion, the mayor’s office declared that month-long celebrations, including Disability Pride Parades, would be held annually, in many parts of the country, to honor and celebrate people afflicted with disabilities.

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