My son, Troy, and I met with Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s office to share our Medicaid story. We joined five other parents and their children who have a disability.
We met with a staff member, because Senator Portman (R) had just flown out of Cincinnati the day before to attend a Republican caucus luncheon to talk about the American Health Care Act. The bill will repeal Obamacare and cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid.
The Senate version of the bill has been shrouded in secrecy. My disability advocate friends who work on Capitol Hill told me that the public will likely not see the contents of the bill until right before it’s brought up for a vote, before July 4th.
It passed in the House along party lines, although my Representative Mike Turner (R-Dayton) voted against the House version. Congress wants to pass the healthcare repeal bill fast for two reasons: Republicans campaigned on repealing Obamacare and many want to move on to President Trump’s tax reform bill.
Unfortunately, this hastily drafted bill will be devastating for the disability community.
The $800 billion in Medicaid cuts goes further than rolling back Obamacare Medicaid expansion. The “per capita based caps” would completely restructure how Medicaid is funded, leaving cash-strapped states to pick up the tab.
Troy and other individuals with Down syndrome rely heavily on community and home based services under Medicaid for early intervention, school related therapies, transportation to work, job training, and independent living supports to name a few. Per capita based caps would force states to end these optional community and home based services, because they would have to use what money’s left for acute health care.
Our meeting with Senator Portman’s office is an important one, because the Republican from Ohio is on the committee drafting the Senate version of the AHCA bill. He’s also considered a potential flip vote.
In a statement regarding the bill Portman said “I’ve already made clear that I don’t support the House bill as currently constructed because I continue to have concerns that this bill does not do enough to protect Ohio’s Medicaid expansion population.”
But he also submitted a proposal supporting cuts to Medicaid expansion that are slowly phase out over seven years, instead of three years under the AHCA House version of the bill.
Ohio’s Governor, John Kasich (R), is also concerned about the AHCA bill and it’s impact on Medicaid. Here’s part of a letter to Congress that he penned along with 5 other Governors: “Unfortunately, H.R. 1628 calls into question coverage for the vulnerable and fails to provide the necessary resources to ensure that no one is left out, while shifting significant costs to the states.”
Troy deserves a self-determined life of choice, but he’ll need support to get there. Troy doesn’t need a hand out, but a hand up.
Senator Portman’s staff member, Robert Braggs, was very kind to listen to our stories. He told us he would pass along our concerns to the Senator, but there was no clear indication as to how he might vote. Braggs did not indulge any of the Senator’s thoughts on the bill. To those in the room and across America, the bill is still an unknown.
It’s so frustrating to have your child’s future in the hands of those who don’t understand the struggles special needs parents face. We rely on a village of support, and we don’t take for granted the power government has over our children’s fate.
Ronald Reagan began the Medicaid waiver system for children with disabilities when I was born a generation ago. In that time life expectancy has more than doubled for individuals with Down syndrome, from 25-years-old to 60. That’s not coincidental. Government can and has improved the lives of our nation’s more vulnerable. We can’t go back!