Access Living statement on the Status of Congressional Healthcare Reform

On Tuesday, July 18, opposition from three women Republican Senators stopped the U.S. Senate from moving forward on a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, (ACA).  Under the ACA, people with disabilities are protected from discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and millions of people with disabilities across the country benefit from services under Medicaid that provide the option of in-home supports as opposed to institutional supports. Opposition to ACA Repeal came just one day after the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) stalled, based upon growing Republican opposition.  Under the BCRA, millions of people, both disabled and non-disabled, would have lost Medicaid coverage because of per capita caps written into the legislation. It is estimated that more than 400,000 people in Illinois would have lost Medicaid coverage, including thousands of people with disabilities in the Illinois Home Services Program (HSP). Under HSP, people with disabilities hire personal assistants in order to live in their own homes instead of institutions, saving Illinois thousands of dollars per person each year.

“Significant cuts to Medicaid funding remain at the core of healthcare reform bills proposed by the majority in Congress. Medicaid is the one true protection for millions of people with disabilities; to cut it spells devastation for people with disabilities,” said Amber Smock, Access Living’s Director of Advocacy. “Access Living applauds local, state, and national advocates who have fought day and night for months against Congressional efforts to destroy the independence and the lives of people with disabilities.” 

These efforts included protests, sit-ins, and die-ins in over 30 cities nationwide, organized by National ADAPT and local ADAPT chapters. ADAPT is a national grass-roots community that organizes disability rights activists to engage in nonviolent direct action, including civil disobedience, to assure the civil and human rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom. The protests, targeting states with Republican Senators, raised awareness among legislators and the public about the benefits of Medicaid and built support for the need to protect Medicaid and community-based supports. 

“Though there is now opposition to ACA Repeal, and to the Senate Healthcare Legislation, people with disabilities, our allies, and our supporters will continue to fight against threats to healthcare. We must not only protect Medicaid, but strengthen Medicaid services that support the right of people to get services in their homes instead of institutions,” said Rahnee Patrick, Access Living’s Director of Independent Living. “

Among other things, improving home-based supports for people with disabilities includes passage of the Disability Integration Act. The Disability Integration Act (DIA)
strengthens the “integration mandate” of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and clarifies that all people eligible for Long Term Services and Supports through Medicaid have the right to choose how to receive those services. In Illinois, the legislation is co-sponsored by Senator Tammy Duckworth, and Representatives Danny Davis and Jan Schakowsky. 

“It is clear that the attacks on Medicaid will continue,” said Smock. “These attacks threaten our healthcare, our independence, and our lives.”

*Though repeal legislation and the Better Care Reconciliation Act failed to move in the Senate the week of July 17, the news suggests that Republican Leadership in the Senate is considering up to three different new pieces of legislation. Advocacy work will continue.
Gary Arnold
Public Affairs Manager