As with much of the legislation that President Trump and the Republican majority in Congress have proposed, the cost of this new health care bill will be carried by those who can least afford it. Among them are the working poor and people with disabilities, including families who have children with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder caused by birth injury.
Republicans are promoting their new health care bill with the same confidence of those who said the Titanic was unsinkable, but if this proposal becomes law, the consequences will be equally tragic.
Individuals with Disabilities Health Care at Risk
If this bill is passed, over the next decade Medicaid funding will be reduced by $880 Million dollars. Additionally, limits will be set on how much states may spend on specific groups, such as elderly people and children.
Families with disabled children who do not receive medical coverage through Medicaid face equally dire possibilities. States will be allowed to move them into insurance pools for people with pre-existing conditions. Insurance premiums for these pools could easily skyrocket.
The Reality: High-Risk Pools
People who advocate for disability rights are justifiably worried about the effects of this bill. Many people with disabilities could be shunted into high-risk pools, or have their Medicaid benefits severely reduced. The bill allows health plans to exclude programs that help disabled individuals live independently and access community and rehabilitation services. While these programs may be classified as “optional,” they are vital in the daily lives of many individuals with disabilities.
Education of children with disabilities who attend public schools is also vital, and that is another thing that could be affected. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act allows schools to be reimbursed by Medicaid for equipment, educators, and therapies for disabled children. Schools are now considered Medicaid providers, but under this legislation, states could drop that classification. Schools would still need to accommodate children with disabilities, but they wouldn’t have funding to do so.
Dr. Nathaniel Beers, a pediatrician and CEO and president of the HSC Health Care System in Washington, D.C., also spoke to the harmful effects of the bill. His organization primarily cares for children with disabilities. Beers argues:
“The lack of awareness of what the loss of support for pre-existing conditions and services that school systems are able to bill for will have real implications on the quality of life and outcomes for kids.”
Cerebral Palsy, Family, and Support Systems
If the bill were to pass, it would put a heavier financial burden on the families of children with cerebral palsy. Currently, kids with cerebral palsy can apply for Medicaid benefits to cover medical care, various therapies, home health care aides, and assistive equipment.
These services are crucial to support not only the child, but the entire family. Children with cerebral palsy may need assistance throughout the day to help them move, communicate, write, and do other tasks. Family members can benefit from physical and emotional support from outside caregivers to provide the best environment for their child to thrive.
Medical Stamp of Disapproval
After the bill was passed through the House, a coalition of 6 medical groups came out against the proposal. They issued a collective statement, arguing the bill would harm medical care for millions of Americans.
The 6 groups speak for more than 560,000 medical professional across the country. They include the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American College of Physicians (ACP), American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Psychiatric Association (APA), and American Osteopathic Association (AOA).
Additionally, the bill continues to promote Trump’s agenda of wealth redistribution to the already-wealthy. While those making over $250,000 will benefit from tax breaks, approximately 14 million working poor people who joined Medicaid under the ACA will be cut from those benefits. The bill also proposes new standards that let states set work requirements for families to receive Medicaid. Those unable to hack through the red tape will be dropped.
Campaign Promises Vs. The (Brave New) Real World
So does this bill fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to ensure that all Americans have health care? That health care is affordable? That no one will lose their health insurance?
No. It doesn’t.
Clearly this proposal moves us 1 step closer to the science fiction dystopia Trump seems to envision for our country. It is our responsibility to raise a collective voice against this bill that would deny disabled people, their families, and others with pre-existing conditions the right to affordable health comprehensive health care.
But if the call to community, fairness, and the coming dystopia doesn’t move you, remember that the rights you save for someone else today, could the rights you rely on tomorrow.