One in seven people using Medicaid has a disability — many of them are children — and the health services they depend on are now in jeopardy. That’s because proposed changes to Medicaid in the Senate this month will lead to extensive service cuts if they become law.
Since Medicaid began in 1965, states and the federal government have shared the responsibility. Capping federal contributions and cutting overall funding, as the Senate bill proposes, leaves two options: either shift costs to the already stretched state budgets or cut services drastically, which would lead to fewer resources for people with disabilities. Fewer resources means risk for homelessness, forced nursing home or other institutional placements.
Take Gary for example, he has been using our services since he was a little boy born with cerebral palsy. Gary remembers coming to swim at our facilities and attending Boy Scouts as a young child. For a person who was not expected to live past 20, Gary is now 64 years old. He has been using a wheelchair since birth, and has taken part in our home care, personal care, adult day and assisted living services. Gary lives independently with the help of Medicaid services. He relishes his freedom and makes good use of it by visiting people in nursing homes and giving back to the community.
Where would Gary go if Medicaid services were cut? How would Gary afford the medical attention he needs if Medicaid services were capped? The American Health Care Act under consideration in the U.S. Senate will reduce vital services to children, seniors and adults with disabilities.
Easter Seals Wyoming is a direct care organization that sees firsthand the positive impact Medicaid services have on the people we serve every day, including personal care services that meet the most basic human needs. Many individuals receiving these services have limited or no family to provide the care or aging parents that are no longer capable. Medicaid is the means to independence for millions of children, seniors and adults with disabilities and their families.
The need for services has never been greater, with some 10 million people with disabilities nationwide relying on Medicaid funded services. States would need to respond to the federal cuts by cutting eligibility, reducing reimbursement rates and otherwise reducing spending for the children, seniors and people with disabilities.
The Senate’s proposed cuts will harm people in our communities — limiting and in some cases eliminating supports needed by our nation’s most vulnerable. Please tell your senators — no cuts or caps to Medicaid.
Michelle Belknap is the president/CEO of Easter Seals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain. She is based in Great Falls, Montana.