WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats urged disability advocates to tell their members of Congress to oppose the Medicaid cuts in the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA).
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the AHCA reduces Medicaid spending by approximately $834 billion over 10 years.
“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 during a rally outside of the Capitol today. “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.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) called the House bill an “unconscionable attack” on Medicaid since it would cap the payments that are sent to states for the program.
“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,” Van Hollen said.
“We are here with you to say no cuts, no caps,” he added as the crowd chanted.
The Democratic senators turned the bullhorn over to Cindy Jennings of Pennsylvania, a mother of two who said she lost medical coverage after her divorce.
“When my husband finalized our divorce, I was a 50-year-old woman with two pre-existing conditions,” she said, telling the crowd one of her sons has a chromosome abnormality. When he was born, Jennings said, she decided to leave her full-time job to care for her son since her husband’s job paid more at the time.
“I’ve been the primary and sole caregiver of our son for more than 23 years. My boys and I have experienced a drastic drop in income but we’ve adjusted and still manage to live within our means. I’ve been able to hold it together, barely at times, with the support of the ACA and Medicaid,” she said.
Jennings said she could not afford to purchase a healthcare plan in the Obamacare insurance marketplace but made “too much” money to qualify for a tax credit under the law.
“I was caught in that gap. It was only because of the ACA and that Pennsylvania decided to expand Medicaid that I have insurance today,” she said to applause from the crowd.
Jennings said her oldest son is supported by “Medicaid waiver funding” that pays for his participation in a program, which frees her to work part-time.
“Medicaid also provides some in-home supports for him and allows him to convey his wants and needs through a communication device. He’s an active member of our community and recently obtained his first part-time job,” she said. “Cuts to Medicaid would devastate his life, and without those supports I would need to leave my job to continue his care. It’s frustrating and, let me tell you, it is scary. I’m a college graduate who planned a life much different than the one I am living.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) vowed to oppose any spending cuts for Medicaid.
“In Illinois alone, 60,000 veterans depend on Medicaid. They are trying to propose a tax cut for wealthy Americans on the backs of everyday, hard-working people who rely on Medicaid and even on the backs of wounded warriors. This is not acceptable. I’m going to fight them every step of the way,” she said. “We know better than this. The America that I love, the America that I defended, we do not leave people behind.”
Duckworth said Medicaid makes it possible for many elderly Americans to live in nursing homes and helps keep Americans with disabilities out of institutions.
“If we can keep people with disabilities living in their own homes to the full extent that they want to live their lives, that is cheaper for everyone overall. Putting people in institutions does not help,” she said.