Recess? Not for Advocates! The Fight to Protect Medicaid Continues!

After a long and unusually arduous process, Congressional leaders and President Obama reached a deficit reduction and debt deal in time to avoid defaulting on the Nation’s debt.  Your work to convince legislators to protect Medicaid in the short term made a difference!  Now, we must redouble our efforts as more grave threats lie ahead…

What’s in the deal?

On August 2nd, President Obama signed a bill into law to raise the debt ceiling and place spending caps on discretionary programs, reducing spending by $1 trillion over ten years.  These cuts must be balanced between defense and non-defense spending, which could include important disability-related programs like housing, education, employment, and transportation. Entitlement programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), are protected from cuts in this first step.  Over the next two months, committees in Congress will finalize what programs bear the brunt of the cuts.

What’s next?

This fall, Congress is charged with cutting an additional $1.2 to $1.5 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years.  This will be initiated by a twelve-member bipartisan Congressional “super committee” (Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction) that proposes specific spending cuts by November 23rd.  The Committee’s plan must get the support of at least 7 of its members to be voted on by the full Congress.  Congress will then hold an up-or-down vote, with no amendments allowed, on the spending cuts legislation by December 23rd.  Cuts to important disability-related discretionary and entitlement programs, like Medicaid, could be proposed by the Committee and enacted by Congress.

If this committee fails to obtain agreement from at least 7 of its Members to cut $1.2 trillion or if Congress fails to enact it, then automatic, across-the-board spending cuts will be triggered for 2013-2021.  However, any automatic, across-the-board cuts would exempt the low income entitlement programs, such as the Medicaid and SSI programs.  Small Medicare cuts are allowed but will fall on the providers.

What does this mean for the Medicaid lifeline?

Medicaid and other programs that serve people with I/DD are still extremely vulnerable to cuts.  The Arc is deeply concerned that the next proposals in this process could include significant cuts to Medicaid.

What can I do?

Right now, Members of Congress are home on recess until September.  With Members of Congress in their districts, reading their local newspapers, we are asking you to write letters to the editor to share your story.  Tell your Members of Congress “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!”

Find your local newspapers that take letters to the editor, and submit one today!

What should I include in my letter?

  • Medicaid is our lifeline to services and supports.
  • Medicaid and other programs that serve low-income people must be protected in deficit reduction plans.
  • Increased revenues must be part of any deficit reduction agreement to ensure that the budget is not balanced on the backs of people with I/DD.
  • Share your story!
  • Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!

Need a sample to guide you?

Newspapers often have a word limit for letters to the editor.  This letter shows you how to weave a personal story into a short, 150-word letter.

To the Editor:

Now that Congress is moving forward on further cuts to balance the budget, it must not be done at the expense of people with disabilities.

My teenage son has autism and a debilitating connective tissue disorder.  Medicaid is lifeline for our family.  Thanks to Medicaid, he receives health care and long term services when I’m at work and unable to support him.  It pays for his medications, surgeries, and therapies to stay healthy and his personal care services to stay safe.

Without Medicaid, I would have to quit my job and go on public assistance or else place my son, against his will, in an institution where he would be isolated and lose many of the skills he is now developing. I believe the United States is better than that. Congress should be able to find a balanced budget solution without jeopardizing effective, essential programs like Medicaid.

— Linda Guzman, Chapel Hill, NC

Finally…

The August recess is often when Members of Congress hold town hall meetings.  Be on the lookout for these opportunities to ask your elected officials questions about their views on Medicaid and deficit reduction.  We will be providing more information soon on how to advocate at a town hall meeting.

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