ACCESS LIVING STATEMENT ON CBO SCORE OF AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ACT

May 24, 2017---On May 27, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its new score of the effects of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). As expected, the updated assessment only minimally mitigates the vast damage projected by the original scoring; Medicaid remains the single biggest target of reductions within the bill. The AHCA would continue to threaten the lives of the total of more than 42 million people with disabilities across the country who rely on Medicaid, state marketplace plans, employer insurance and other options. It would cut Medicaid by $834 billion over ten years. Taken together with the White House's release of its proposed FY 18 budget yesterday , the AHCA continues to represent a full scale attack on disability rights and economic opportunity.

Overall, the CBO predicts that 14 million people will lose health care coverage by next year under the AHCA and 23 million less people will have it in 10 years than they would under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Currently, there are 28 million people who are uninsured; by 2026, that number would rise to 51 million uninsured. In addition, the plans themselves will be worse. The worst effects are for the states that would ask for waivers to no longer cover all essential health benefits, and to waive protections for people with pre-existing health conditions.

For example, were Illinois to request an Essential Health Benefits (EHB) waiver, out-of-pocket expenses for mental health care and substance abuse services could increase by thousands of dollars a year, escalating our state's mental health and opioid crisis. As a second example, people with physical disabilities routinely face exorbitant costs for habilitative equipment such as wheelchairs. Being forced to pay for this equipment out of pocket would trap thousands in their own homes.

Access Living has repeatedly sounded the warning about the dangers of the AHCA's Medicaid per capita caps, hidden discriminations against persons with pre-existing conditions, weakening of essential health benefits, elimination of lifetime caps, and more. Those who actually have non-Medicaid insurance could face escalating premiums and out-of-pocket costs for far less service. In Illinois alone, over 480,000 people with disabilities count on Medicaid to survive. The new CBO assessment only re-confirms the dangers to a health care system already stretched thin, especially in Illinois.

"Make no mistake. Reductions of this magnitude will result in deteriorating health, costly institutionalization and loss of life," said Marca Bristo, President and CEO of Access Living. "While people with disabilities only make up 15% of the Medicaid population, they account for over 40% of the expenditures. They will be hit disproportionately hard."

"People with disabilities have very complex relationships with Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance," said Amber Smock, Director of Advocacy at Access Living. "The attempt to totally reform health care in this country solely through reductions, without examining what healthcare actually does for people, can only result in economic disaster, increased levels of illness and disability, and ironically, greater costs to consumers. That's not what the public wants."

Access Living calls upon our members of Congress, our Governor, and our civic leaders to do everything they can to avert this unprecedented looming disaster.

Read the CBO release at this link https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52752 .

Established in 1980, Access Living is a change agent committed to fostering an inclusive society that enables Chicagoans with disabilities to live fully-engaged and self-directed lives. Nationally recognized as a leading force in the disability advocacy community, Access Living challenges stereotypes, protects civil rights and champions social reform. Their staff and volunteers combine knowledge and personal experience to deliver programs and services that equip people with disabilities to advocate for themselves. Access Living is at the forefront of the disability rights movement, removing barriers so people with disabilities can live the future they envision. Learn more about Access Living at www.accessliving.org.