Last week, advocates declared a call to action in protest of the $800 billion worth of cuts to Medicaid included in the American Health Care Act, which passed the House and is heading for the Senate.
Organizers called it the “June 6th Day Action,” which served as a reminder that the 10 million citizens with disabilities make up 14 percent of the Medicaid population, while disproportionately require 40 percent of all costs. This disproportion points to why this population is the most vulnerable in the country.
The bill will allow states to require Medicaid recipients to work or partake in community service or job training. Obamacare did not require recipients to work to be eligible for the program.
According to aKaiser Family Foundation analysis, nearly 8 in 10 adults on Medicaid live in working families. Of the more than 70 million Medicaid enrollees, about 9.8 million do not work. Thirty-five percent report an illness or disability that prevents them from working, and 28 percent have at-home and/or family responsibilities that prevent them from working. Eighteen percent are going to school, 8 percent are retired, 8 percent could not find work, and 3 percent reported a different reason.
“Make no mistake, many people will die as a result of this bill,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida).
The plan willalso give states the option to receive block grants for Medicaid recipients, no matter how many people in the state are enrolled. Additionally, states willhave the option to immediately cease the expansion of Medicaid instead of waiting until 2020.
Republicans are hunkered down in the Capitol Building, trying to adapt the bill to make it less devastating to those who live off of Medicaid allotted funds. Meanwhile, just outside the Capitol Building, as well as government offices around the country, thousands of eclectic groups of people ranging from lawmakers to parents of children with disabilities gathered to voice their concern over the future of disability care in the United States.
Advocates as well as state leaders came together to rally against the harmful cuts.
“We are going to protect and defend Medicaid for people with disabilities, for kids across the country, millions of them, who get their healthcare through Medicaid and for older citizens trying to get into nursing homes,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said. “But today, if you go to these offices, I hope you will bring that message to them that you are not going to allow cuts, that you are not going to allow caps to Medicaid and we are going to fight every step of the way along with you.”
“This is just a Trojan horse to provide very big tax cuts to very wealthy people. This is not about healthcare. This is about wealth care,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said.
Families all over the country rely on Medicaid to afford crucial expenses that in a lot of cases are either life saving or required for quality of life. Over the last 50 years, the biggest improvement for people with disabilities has been, because of Medicaid funding, the ability to shift away from big, state-run facilities into the care of their loved ones. This has enabled them to live more productive lives and be contributing members of society.
Notably, the AHCA is not the only change slated to impact Medicaid. President Donald Trump in May released his “A New Foundation for American Greatness” budget, which proposes cuts of over $600 billion to Medicaid over the course of a decade in addition to, it seems, the over $800 billion cut proposed by the AHCA. The budget turns the program into a block grant or per capita program, which will inevitably decrease or even eliminate benefits for some recipients.
Recent leaps have been made in employment and the inclusion of people with disabilities into some of the largest corporate enterprises in the world. But without the safety net that Medicaid affords, this freedom could easily be lost. This awareness campaign generated nearly 20,000 tweets with the appointed #SaveMedicaid tagline and was trending worldwide on most social media platforms. People who will be affected the most from this offset of funding will have extra eyes on the Senate chambers, as the Senators hold the fate of this bill and the future of disability care in their hands.