When it comes to health care changes and threats to the federal Medicaid program, Minnesotans with disabilities and their allies aren’t resting. The Arc Minnesota and Arc Greater Twin Cities met with a large group in Inver Grove Heights September 30, to discuss future cooperation and strategy. It’s one of the latest efforts by Minnesota’s This is Medicaid coalition.
The Republican-led Graham-Cassidy bill was shelved in late September when key members of the U.S. Senate wouldn’t support it. The bill and its predecessor would have had dire consequences for people with disabilities as Medicaid would have been cut. Allocations would have been in block grant form, meaning states would have to decide which services to reduce and which services to provide additional state funding for.
President Donald Trump has announced he’ll continue to seek repeal of the Affordable Care Act and health care reform through executive order. But what that would look like is still unknown. What is does mean is that Medicaid supporters must remain vigilant.
Medicaid, known as Medical Assistance in Minnesota, supports a wide range of services. Minnesota’s This is Medicaid coalition, which includes more than 150 groups, was featured at a September 21 press briefing with Gov. Mark Dayton. About one million Minnesotans rely on Medicaid for services and supports.
Dayton harshly criticized federal efforts to cut Medicaid, calling such actions “a tragedy” and “a travesty.” He described the proposed cuts as an “abandonment of people who need government support by people who don’t.”
Dayton is also unhappy that states would have to make the decisions on which programs to keep and which to cut.
Kate Swenson’s son Cooper lives with non-verbal autism. The Cottage Grove family relies on support to pay for his therapy. The child has made good progress through therapy needs but would be held back if he lost his program.
“I have a beautiful, amazing six-year-old at home that will probably never speak to me. He’ll never live on his own, he’ll never grow up cognitively, and he’ll need lifelong care,” Swenson said. “My health insurance only pays for a tiny part of this little boy’s care.”
Having a child with disabilities was a wake-up call, said Swenson. “Before you have a kid or if you never have a kid or if you never have a kid with a disability, you don’t know that Medicaid is not just for seniors, and that your health insurance doesn’t pay for everything.”
Swenson worries that she and her husband would have to quit their jobs and be more dependent on public assistance if Medicaid is cut. She also worries about her son’s future and his ability to stay at home. “I don’t know if it’s going to be this way of the rest of his life,” Swenson said. “Are we going to have to keep fighting like this?”
Adults with disabilities at the press conference made the point that their lives would be changed for the worse if Medicaid is cut. “I don’t know what my family and I would do,’ said disability activist Nikki Villavicencio. She recalled the 2011 news conference when Dayton signed a Medicaid expansion act. “When our governor signed the Medicaid expansion it felt like Minnesota prioritized us,” she said. “Now it feels like nobody in the country that has the power to do anything cares about people with disabilities.”