Washington, D.C.—As President Obama unveiled his debt plan, which includes reduced spending for Medicare and Medicaid by $580 billion, hundreds of activists with disabilities stormed the White House demanding a voice in Medicaid reform. ADAPT, the national disability rights direct action group, is asking the administration to work with them to ensure that Medicaid dollars are invested in cost-saving community supports.
“The President says that he expects all Americans to share the burden of controlling the budget, but Medicaid recipients are already shouldering the burden for balancing budgets at the state level,” said Randy Alexander of Memphis ADAPT. “States have already made significant cuts to Medicaid. How many more people with disabilities and seniors must lose our basic freedoms and lives in order to have done our share?”
Most states have already reduced or eliminated vital homecare services and forced seniors and people with disabilities into nursing facilities against their will. Bruce Darling, an ADAPT organizer from New York pointed out, “People are already experiencing reduced or eliminated access to basic healthcare, including medications. Jobs have already been eliminated for homecare and direct care workers.”
Texas lawmakers underfunded Medicaid by about $5 billion, a move that homecare advocates say leaves the elderly and adults with disabilities unsure how their care at home will be provided.
California eliminated funding for about 330 adult day centers, a move that will affect over 35,000 seniors who use them for medical care and socializing. Lawmakers are hoping to restore about $85 million to transition seniors into an as-yet-undetermined alternate program—about half the amount cut from the budget.
Minnesota is considering cuts to home health aides and to a program that allows disabled people to live on their own. In Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick proposed cutting $55 million from the state’s adult daycare program, two-thirds of its funding, affecting some 5,200 participants.
The ADAPT community has identified four principles for real Medicaid reform: 1. Expand the use of community-based services 2. De-medicalize services 3. Expand consumer directed service options 4. Reorganize Medicaid services to eliminate wasteful bureaucracy.
I applaud ADAPT’s efforts and agree that something needs to be done immediately. However, reforms aren’t enough. Reforms are not going to result in the kind of lasting, continuous change that is needed; and it is unlikely they will take place under a system where healthcare is for profit.
A capitalistic society that denies people a basic human right like free healthcare will not willingly give up its power. ADAPT’s suggestions are based on human needs; to keep capitalism going, basic human needs come last, if at all.