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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

The New Healthcare Bill: Repeal ACA and Watch Millions Live Inhumanely and Inadequately

By Matthew Schwartz, NCIL Summer Policy Intern

Amidst recent headlines, healthcare has been for the most part left out of the news and public discourse. Members of Congress are using the Russia investigation as cover to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in favor of the American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA). Members of Congress are using this time to slip in their new healthcare bill, silently, so as to not alert the public to the dastardly affects the AHCA will have on millions of people nationwide.

Approximately 50 people are gathered for a Rally. Several people have signs that read No Cuts No Caps to Medicaid - ACLUThe ACA legislation has paved the way for better coverage and better rights for many; however, the disability community is one of many groups that will face serious harm if the AHCA is passed.

If the AHCA is passed, people with disabilities would face an inhumane lifestyle due to a lack of funds and the absence of proper Medicaid supports. People with disabilities will not be able to afford the necessary assistance or utilize crucial programs and as a result will be unable to live independently.

The proposed budget for the AHCA shows ignorance and a lack of understanding about the needs of the disability community. The proposed budget would make $72 billion in cuts to disability programs like Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In addition, the President’s budget proposal would reduce spending on many other programs that are imperative for people with disabilities, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The budget would also make major funding cuts for housing, education, research, and many more essential programs. These cuts create the possibility that hundreds of Centers for Independent Living (CILs) across the country may close. Listed are just a few of the cuts that would be devastating for the many people who rely on these programs for assistance to live independently and with the freedom to make their own decisions. 

What makes the AHCA even more dangerous is that the bill would institute state options for a per capita cap or block grant. A cap would limit the amount allowed to be spent on eligible people and significantly harm people who have disabilities by capping Medicaid funding in order to cut federal spending.

The proposed per capita caps would limit federal Medicaid contributions, with a $20 billion cut in 2018 and a total reduction of $149 billion in federal Medicaid support to the states by 2026. States will be at financial risk for any costs that exceed the cap for disabled enrollees and would need to find other revenues to maintain coverage, or reduce costs. In the hopes of saving money and not going over the cap, many states will switch to institutional care for people with disabilities. Institutional care is a costlier option, grants less independence to people with disabilities, and limits the freedom for people with disabilities to make their own decisions. Institutional care is not a viable option.

A cap is a cut, especially to critical services. The continued rhetoric used to defend per capita caps is that “they give states more flexibility.” However, states are only given more flexibility to do harm, such as cutting programs in response to federal funding reductions. The number of essential services will be decreased and health benefits for individuals will be eliminated. No matter how it is worded, a per capita cap will hurt the disability community.

Take Action!

What can you do? Urge your Members of Congress to defend affordable healthcare for millions of Americans. We have only a few weeks before the ACA is repealed – then it will be too late. We need everyone to spread the word about the benefits provided by Medicaid: people with disabilities, siblings, self-advocates, etc. All stories will help.

Call offices, write op-eds, take advantage of social media, and urge people across the country to do the same. The men and women voting on this bill need to know how vital Medicaid is for allowing people with disabilities to live healthy, independent lives and to be free to make their own decisions.

Every American deserves access to affordable healthcare.

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