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Health-Care Bill and President’s Budget Would Hurt Individuals with Autism

US Senate Tackles Health-Care Repeal and Replace Bill 

Senate leadership is convening several work groups to draft improvements to the House-approved version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill in its current form slashes Medicaid funding by $834 billion over the next decade and reduces the insured population by 23 million, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates. The AHCA proposal substantially increases coverage costs for individuals with pre-existing conditions, including those with disabilities, placing much-needed care out of reach for families and individuals on the autism spectrum. AHCA also allows states to opt out of funding essential health benefits that people with disabilities and their families rely on to stay employed and in their communities, including rehabilitative and habilitative services, assistive technology, and preventative and wellness services.

 

White House Announces Budget Plan

Earlier this week, the White House released A New Foundation for American Greatness, the administration’s proposed budget blueprint for fiscal year 2018. National advocacy organizations are deeply concerned about the plan and its impact on the ability for people with disabilities to meet their most basic needs. (Read the Autism Society of America’s statement.) The budget proposal assumes full passage of the American Health Care Act with its over $830 billion in Medicaid cuts and adds another possible $610 billion in reductions to Medicaid. Social Security disability benefits also take a hit with more than $70 billion in cuts. The plan proposes to shutter state Councils of Developmental Disabilities (DD Councils) for lesser-funded innovation programs and significantly reduces major autism-related research and interventions programs administered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

 

Both the AHCA and White House proposals would hurt people with autism, including those who are currently getting Medicaid, those on the waiting list, those who are on Social Security, and those who may need these services in the future.  Much more research is needed on autism, as are innovative approaches funded by Councils of Developmental Disabilities.

Medicaid home- and community-based waivers, such as North Carolina’s Innovations and CAP programs, allow people with serious disabilities to live in their own homes, hold jobs, and participate in communities. Costs for vital treatments and supports could shift to individuals or their family members, possibly putting those services out of reach.

For families that have loved ones with autism, the consequences of these plans could include:

  • Already lengthy waiting lists of 8-10 years for disability waiver services will grow to record levels, and services may be severely limited. General Assembly legislators are moving to reduce NC waiting lists; these changes at the federal level could stop this from happening.
  • If funds become scarcer, states may decide to stop providing personal care, mental health, prescription drugs, and rehabilitative services.
  • Coverage for intensive behavior services (including ABA) for children under Medicaid’s EPSDT could end.
  • Schools may no longer be reimbursed for services. This would only increase the burden on schools.

 

Take 5 minutes to call your US senators!

Call your US senators today at 202-224-3121 and tell them to oppose cuts to Medicaid and other proposed changes. You can also contact them through their district offices:

 

Members of Congress will be back in their home districts next week, from May 29 to June 2. This is an opportune time to attend local town halls, community meetings, or visit district offices to share personal impact stories about how Medicaid helps you and your loved ones. Enter your ZIP code at https://townhallproject.com/ to find local meetings and events held by your representative.

 

Tell your representatives: 

  • I am your constituent.
  • I am a person with a disability, or I am a family member of someone with a disability, or I am a professional in the disability field.
  • I care deeply about health care and supports for people with autism, including Medicaid.
  • Briefly share your personal story; that is what will make a difference.
  • North Carolina is already using per-capita funding models and has 8- to 10-year waiting lists for many autism services.
  • Do not allow funding caps and cuts to Medicaid to be part of health-care replacement bills.
  • Do not allow states to opt out of covering basic health care and please keep affordable care for people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Add in any other concerns you have regarding the proposed budget or health-care changes including cuts to Social Security, funding for health research, cuts to DD Councils, etc.

 

To learn more about how to advocate with your legislators, see our website.

The American Health Care Act and the recent budget announcement both highlight the importance of understanding the complexities of Medicaid. Our friends at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network developed a great plain-language resource guide to Medicaid.

 

Every call you make counts! Literally. Staff and representatives are noting the issues and counting calls.

Thank you for taking action and making calls. We know there is a lot going on – this makes your advocacy all the more important!

 

The Autism Society of North Carolina will continue to monitor federal policy changes and post updates and links to resources about health-care proposals. Please be on the lookout for our action alerts so that you know when the autism community needs you to advocate with your elected representatives. Sign up for public policy emails on our website.

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