Advocates: Proposed federal cuts to Medicaid detrimental to people with disabilities

Published: Jun. 6, 2017 at 6:35 PM EDT
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By: Lanetra Bennett

June 6, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Three years ago was the first time Jennifer Perry-Breen was able to talk at age 25.

Her ability to do so was because of a speech generating device. Now, she's using her new-found voice to speak out against Medicaid cuts.

Perry-Breen said by using her device, "These potential cuts make my heart skip a beat and brings fear to the disability community."

Perry-Breen says losing Medicaid could take her voice technology away. She is with a group of advocates joining together in Tallahassee Tuesday, who are speaking out about possible cuts to Medicaid.

The coalition of advocates says the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which passed Congress and now resides in the Senate, proposes to cut Medicaid spending and to impose caps on federal Medicaid funding.

Currently, spending is based on the actual costs of care. If passed, AHCA would place limits on federal funding regardless of actual costs.

The caps will be based on a preset formula and the group says that will increase slightly annually.

Advocates say the proposed $880 billion cut to Medicaid could take away services for people with disabilities. Those services include longterm care, nursing homes, and assistive technology.

Perry-Breen points out that nationwide, people with disabilities account for 15-percent of total Medicaid enrollment, but, 42-percent of program spending due to their greater health needs and more intensive services.

Derrick Carraway said, "A few years back, I had brain surgery. If it wasn't for Medicaid and the services I was able to utilize from that, I wouldn't have been able to get them."

Advocates say the other proposed change could also take away pre-existing condition protection out of health care coverage.

James R. Harding, Ed.D. is an advocate for Floridians with disabilities.

He said, "It keeps me awake at night. It honestly does; especially as I'm aging now. For the first time in my life, despite my quadriplegia, I'm starting to have aging issues. Now, I'm afraid."

Rev. Robert E. Streater, M.A. is a U.S. Army veteran and a burn trauma survivor. He advocates for the disability community, and is especially passionate about military families with children with special needs. He said, "I submit to our representatives to think twice. Think about the choices. Think about the challenges. Think about the change that you're here to represent: we, the people."

Congressman Neal Dunn, who represents Florida's second district, voted for the legislation. He said, “Medicaid spending is on an unsustainable path, threatening this important health care program for the most vulnerable among us. The American Health Care Act puts Medicaid on a budget and gives states the flexibility to innovate and tailor their programs to their own needs.”

Rallies against cuts were also held in Washington, D.C. Tuesday.

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