Urgent Action Alert!
Contact your Representative and Senators during the Congressional Recess (Monday April 18- Friday April 29) to advocate against current House proposals to slash funding for Medicaid. Talking Points, Action Steps and Contact Information for Senators and Representatives is below.
Background: The recent budget proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives would seriously undermine the Medicaid program. Medicaid provides critical health coverage to 8 million Americans with disabilities who rely upon Medicaid for long term services and support, including prescription drug coverage, durable medical equipment, and facilities and services which permit them to live and work in the community, avoiding costly institutional care.
This proposal would reduce Medicaid funding for the next ten years by a total of $772 billion below the level of a status quo program. This is a reduction of about 35%. In addition, the proposal would make the reduced funding a cap on the program (the so-called block grant). By contrast, the existing program does not have a cap and is an entitlement program in which federal funding will cover a share (averaging 57%) of the expenses of a state’s approved Medicaid program. If enacted, the States would have the burden of limiting their programs to deal with the reduced federal support. The reductions made by the state could take the form of curtailing covered services, capping enrollment, and imposing high premiums and co-payments for beneficiaries.
Policy Considerations: The Congressional process for this proposal is likely to be drawn out. At this time there is no definite scenario for how and when Congress will consider proposals to cut Medicaid. There are a number of possibilities.
- Medicaid cuts are now in issue in the Congressional Budget resolution that, if passed, would establish dollar limits for Medicaid funding. If limits are set, the details, such as converting the program from an entitlement program to a program of capped blocked grants, would be dealt with in subsequent legislation. At this time, there is a good possibility that the House and Senate will not be able to agree on a budget resolution, as has happened in the past. Even if no budget resolution is adopted Congress is still able to go forward with legislation to fund the government.
- The next opportunity to impose general spending caps is likely to be when legislation is considered to raise the debt ceiling on the amount of the debt the federal government can issue. The federal government’s debt is expected to reach the current ceiling by May 16. The Administration has stated that if the ceiling is not raised by July 18, the government will be unable to make payments on existing debt. This would have catastrophic effects on interest rates in domestic and international markets. Unlike the budget resolution, the debt ceiling bill is “must pass” legislation.
Outlook: There is speculation that conservatives will refuse to support legislation to raise the debt ceiling unless accompanied by legislation requiring limits on federal spending. Possible limits on spending could take many forms, but most likely they will be general and the battle will continue over follow-up legislation to develop detailed proposals for individual programs such as Medicaid. On another track, President Obama has announced a plan for bi-partisan negotiations between the Administration and the Congress, with the goal of reaching an agreement on the overall budget by June.
The battle over cuts in Medicaid is likely to be prolonged, and involve a series of critical decisions and votes. It is important that the opponents of Medicaid cut proposals express opposition early and often. Even if all details of Medicaid are not an issue in proposals for general spending cuts, the structure of these general spending cut proposals will affect the likelihood that similar proposals will ultimately be adopted. At all times, Members of Congress need to be aware of the serious consequences to people with disabilities of drastic cuts in Medicaid.
The Congressional recess beginning the week of Monday April 18 to Friday April 29th is a good time for advocates to educate their Congressman and Senators who will be in their home districts and states during the recess.
Suggested Talking Points:
- Medicaid is critical for the health care of 8 million people with disabilities.
- Medicaid pays for wheelchairs and prosthetic devices for people with disabilities such as spinal chord injury, cerebral palsy and other disabilities.
- Medicaid pays for prescription drugs for persons with mental illnesses and epilepsy and other medical conditions.
- Medicaid pays for programs to enable people with intellectual disabilities to live and work in the community.
- Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening Diagnosis & Treatment program helps identify disabilities early for children with disabilities and gets them the care they need.
- The proposal would undermine these important benefits by reducing funding for Medicaid for the next 10 years by $772 billion, compared to continuation of the status quo.
- The proposal does not establish specific reductions in Medicaid to enable the program to operate under reduced funding. States will have to make changes to afford to continue Medicaid with significantly less federal support and this proposal leaves it to the States to decide how to cut back on their programs. This could impact many of the current waivers that support community-based living for people with disabilities. Changes must be carefully considered to be certain they will not have a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities who rely on Medicaid to enhance their ability to live and work in the community.
- Call your Senators and House Representative today in their local state offices to set up a time to meet between Monday April 18 and Friday April 29th. To find your U.S. Senator, go to http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm This list includes their Senate address and phone numbers. To determine who is your U.S. Congressional Representative, please go to the official site at https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml To find out your U.S. Congressional Representative’s local address and phone numbers, go to http://www.house.gov/
- If you can only get a meeting with a staffer person, do that too.
- If you or someone you know with a disability benefits from Medicaid directly, be sure to mention that at the meeting.
- Be sure to write a letter using the Talking Points above or organize a Medicaid Letter Writing event.
- Be sure to include your name and address in the letter and state that you are a “registered voter.”
- If you are not a registered voter, go to your state election website at http://tinyurl.com/29x7g5a and register today!
- Let AAPD know what you hear or learn in your meetings or in mail response by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Please circulate this Action Alert to others and encourage them to enter this big budget debate.
- Thank you for everything you do to keep disability programs well-funded and driven by good policy!
AAPD’s Action Alert is written by David Heymsfeld, AAPD Member and Jenifer Simpson, AAPD Senior Director for Government Affairs.