A repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been beaten back – for now. However, disability rights advocates continue to keep an eye on Washington, D.C. Major cuts to Medicaid and the disability services it provides are still a strong possibility under the current administration and Congressional leadership.
Many Minnesotans with disabilities and their allies have been involved in the fight to save the ACA and Medicaid. Hundred marched and rallied at the capitol in St. Paul July 26 for the annual Americans with Disabilities Act celebration. Many of the chants and cheers focused on preserving health care, as well as the services and supports needed to be part of the greater community. Participants and rally speakers said that preserving health care and Medicaid are basic civil rights.
The U.S. Senate, after narrowly rejecting an effort to throw out the ACA, voted early in the morning of July 28 to reject what was called a “skinny repeal.” That quest to take away parts of the ACA fell 49 to 51, just before the Senate went on a break.
The proposed changes were severe. The Better Care Reconciliation Act, which would have cut Medicaid by $772 billion. A second proposal would have curbed Medicaid expansion. Millions more Americans could have lost their health care coverage.
Repeal of the ACA could have meant deep cuts and changes to Medicaid, which is known as Medical Assistance or MA in Minnesota. Medicaid has long operated as an entitlement program, with anyone who is eligible being covered. States receive matching grants from the federal government.
But a shift to a block grant system, which the House supported earlier this summer as part of its vote on the ACA, would have changed that. The proposed block grants would have capped payments per person, leaving states to either make up the costs or make cuts.
Minnesota disability services groups were among the many nonprofits from around the state that breathed sighs of relief over the failure to repeal the ACA. Many groups are part of a coalition called This Is Medicaid. The coalition has waged a high-profile campaign against the ACA repeal threat. The coalition argued that more than one million Minnesotans would be adversely affected by the proposed changes.
“The defeat of the Senate health care bills was a victory for our friends, family, and neighbors who rely on Medicaid, and those who don’t yet need it,” said Patrick Ness, public policy director at the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. Wilder is one of the coalition members. “This victory would not have been possible without community members and advocates across Minnesota who spoke out and bravely shared their stories. Medicaid is stronger today because of their advocacy.”
Coalition members thanked the U.S. Senators who voted “no” on these bills. “We are grateful to our Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, for their consistent, strong advocacy for Medicaid,” said Susie Emmert Schatz, senior director of advocacy for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, another coalition member. “Thanks also to their colleagues from both parties who joined them in voting ‘no’. We invite them all to work with us to continue protecting Medicaid from harmful restructuring or cuts that jeopardize the health care and support services which are lifelines for millions of Minnesotans.”
“This week was good news for people who benefit from Medicaid, but we know that we must remain vigilant,” said Sue Abderholden, executive director of NAMI Minnesota, also a coalition member. “We are committed to preserving our nation’s promise of Medicaid to Americans for the past 52 years. Federal budget proposals from some members of the U.S. House and from the White House make drastic cuts for this coming year and for years to come. There is no doubt that these and many other legislative vehicles can and will be used to decimate a vital federal program.”
The Medicaid coalition of nonprofit organizations from across Minnesota formed to protect Medicaid from harmful changes and funding cuts. The nonpartisan organizations advocate for or directly serve people who access health care and supports through Medicaid. Supporting organizations include AARP Minnesota, Allina Health, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, AspireMN, Care Providers, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Catholic Health Association of Minnesota, Children’s Defense Fund – Minnesota, Children’s Minnesota, Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, LeadingAge Minnesota, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Minnesota AIDS Project, Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers, Minnesota Association of Community Mental Health Programs, Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, Minnesota Budget Project, Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Minnesota Homeless Coalition, Minnesota Hospital Association, Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Minnesota Social Service Association, NAMI Minnesota, Portico Healthnet, Rare Action Network of MN, Safety Net Coalition, St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development and The Arc Minnesota.