The disabled fight GOP’s massive Medicaid cuts
By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook
On Thursday, June 22, about 60 members of ADAPT, a national disability rights organization, staged a wheel chair sit-in that shut down Senator Mitch McConnell’s Washington office, while most of us able-bodied Americans were doing nothing to protect our right to healthcare. There are 71,777,758 Americans currently receiving their healthcare coverage through the government-run Medicaid Program. The new Republican plan, to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a GOP Plan that even Trump calls “mean”, will cut Medicaid by $834 billion. The 60 wheel chair-bound activists staged a “Die-In” in Majority Leader McConnell’s Washington office in fierce opposition to the GOP Plan and cuts, while chanting, “I’d rather go to jail than die without Medicaid.” They occupied McConnell’s office most of the day until Capitol police moved in and started forcibly removing and arresting the disabled protesters. As they were being dragged out of their wheel chairs, some were dropped and injured before being arrested.
This Republican health care bill was developed in secret; with Democratic senators having no knowledge of the bill’s contents until it was released this week. The GOP plan is to rush through a vote on it by next week with no public hearings or input by Democrats, so the public will not find out how badly we will be hurt until it is too late to stop it. In contrast, many of these same Republicans claimed Obamacare was rushed through in 2009 even though there was full debate in both houses of Congress and almost a year of public hearings. I know, firsthand, because I hosted a town hall meeting at Tallahassee’s City Hall on the Obama Affordable Care Act with an overflow, fiercely divided crowd of speakers, proponents, and opponents. The public will have no such opportunity to tell Marco Rubio and other GOP senators how we feel about their 2017 health plan unless the rest of us start showing the courage that those disabled Americans showed last week.
In addition to the fact that 23 million Americans will lose their health coverage under the Republican plan, it is important to know that 60 percent of all disabled children, 30 percent of disabled adults, 76 percent of all low-income children, 39 percent of all children, 49 percent of all births, and the long-term and specialized care for even the elderly covered by Medicare rely on Medicaid for health coverage. So if anyone thinks this does not affect you, you are dead wrong unless you are among the wealthiest Americans.
In the meantime, Trump is making Obamacare even more expensive and driving down new enrollments in the plan by refusing to pay for benefits now covered under ACA; and causing private insurers to drop coverage in many states. Then they use consequences they caused as evidence that Obama’s ACA is failing. In truth, the major problem with Obamacare is the increasing cost for premiums and deductibles caused in large part because of Republicans’ threats to hold Obamacare hostage in 2009, if it included a public option. The Public Option would have been the addition of a government or non-profit insurer that would keep premiums and other costs competitive; resulting in lower rates by private insurers for coverage. However, Republicans’ were more intent on preserving the right for private insurance and drug companies to make high profits than the rights of Americans for affordable health care. And that’s the same motive that drives the mean-spirited health plan GOP Senators released this week.
If disabled, wheel chair-bound Americans were willing to risk their freedom to protest this heartless piece of Legislation, the rest of us should be embarrassed if we do nothing to protect the rights of our children, grandchildren, parents, and ourselves to health care. Every church that claims to believe Matthew 25:40, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”, has an obligation to speak out to protect those who cannot speak for themselves. This is a defining moment for our country. Countries with far less wealth than the U.S. long ago recognized that affordable health care is a right government must ensure for all. Obama’s ACA moved us in the right direction. Trump and the GOP‘s plan will eliminate any forward progress and leave most of us even worse off than we were before Obamacare. Blinded by their need to erase any vestige of President Obama’s legacy, Republicans are showing no concern for the harm they are doing to millions of Americans.
Organized protest is necessary to stop this assault on our human rights. Those who choose to stand silent and do nothing will be defined for many years to come by their cowardice, at a time when true courage is required.
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