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.
Millions of individuals with disabilities, like Victor who is in our services, rely on health care and community-based supports available through Medicaid. When 62-year-old Victor first entered Easter Seals-Goodwill’s behavioral health services in Idaho, he lived in a homeless shelter and faced numerous physical and mental health issues, making him seem 20 years older than he really was. Victor needed a knee replacement, but because he had no access to medical care other than the ER, he resorted to using a cane as a temporary, inadequate fix. Victor also suffers from cognitive challenges, making seemingly simple tasks like arranging transportation or completing forms extremely difficult.
Victor began receiving Medicaid-funded services provided by Easter Seals-Goodwill once he became eligible for Social Security (SSDI). Medicaid services have helped Victor transition from the homeless shelter into an assisted living facility, providing more safety and stability. Through Medicaid, Victor is receiving the medication he needs to prevent a mental health crisis or substance abuse relapse and is meeting with a surgeon about knee replacement surgery. Victor’s mental and physical condition has stabilized. But if Medicaid services are cut, Victor would lose all the ground that he’s gained and go back to living on the street, disabled for the rest of his life.
Easter Seals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain 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 would 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 president/CEO of Easter Seals-Goodwill Northern Rocky Mountain.