White House stormed over Medicare cuts

From the November-December 2011 issue of News & Letters:

White House stormed over Medicare cuts

Part of the hundreds of concerned people from over 90 disability, aging and civil rights groups which converged on Washington, D.C., for the My Medicaid Matters rally on Sept. 21.  Photo courtesy of www.ADAPT.org

Part of the hundreds of concerned people from over 90 disability, aging and civil rights groups which converged on Washington, D.C., for the My Medicaid Matters rally on Sept. 21. Photo courtesy of http://www.ADAPT.org

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.

—Suzanne Rose

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