Advocacy Season Starts Now!

By Sunrise Group on January 4, 2017

The 115th Congressional Session convened on Tuesday, January 3, 2017. Federal health care was a priority. Action was taken immediately when the Senate voted (mostly along party lines) on Wednesday to take its first step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA.) The 51-48 vote was a procedural motion to start debate on a budget resolution that Republicans hope will result in overhauling ACA (more commonly known as “Obamacare.”) A repeal of the ACA without a solid replacement could prove devastating for people with disabilities.

The Affordable Care Act established needed protections for People with Disabilities, including:

1. Expanded access to insurance coverage

  • Expands Coverage through Individual Mandate, Marketplace, and Medicaid
  • Extends Parent-Dependent Coverage

2. Improves Long Term Supports and Services for PWD

  • Makes Improvements to Money Follows the Person Program, Home and Community Based Services, and Balancing Incentive Program

3. Enhances Protections for PWD

  • Eliminates Insurance Company Discrimination on Pre-existing Conditions

4. Improves Accessibility and Quality of Health Care for PWD

  • Mandates Free Coverage of Preventive Services
  • Requires Essential Health Benefits be Covered
  • Ends Lifetime Limits on Health Benefits
  • Improves Accessibility of Examination Equipment and Data Collection

Source: Ohio Disability & Health Program, White Paper 2013

In addition to the budget resolution threat, many states are proposing Medicaid Block Grants for all enrollees including people with disabilities. FamiliesUSA explains that, “a ‘block grant’ is a fixed amount of money that the federal government gives to a state for a specific purpose. If Medicaid was turned into a block grant, the federal government would set each state’s Medicaid spending amount in advance. That amount would presumably be based on some estimate of state Medicaid spending, but most block grant proposals start with significant cuts in federal Medicaid support.

Once the amount is set by the federal government, it will not change, even if a state’s actual program costs are greater than the allotted amount. If a state’s costs exceed the amount of the block grant, it will have to use its own funds to make up the difference or, more likely, cut services for low-income residents, including children, seniors, and people with disabilities.”

The challenge of block grants is compounded by the issue that many states have existing Wait Lists for community-based disability services. For example, Florida has a wait list of more than 22,000; Georgia and Maryland each have 8,000 awaiting services; followed closely by Tennessee with 7,000 on its wait list. Connecticut has the fewest families on its wait list for services which still exceeds 2,000 individuals. If a state’s block grant proposal includes reductions in federal Medicaid spending (as most do) then states like Florida will start out with even less federal funding than they have now. How will they address ever growing wait lists? Your voice and advocacy are needed now!

We’re mere weeks away from the first of the 2017 state sessions. Sunrise urges you to sign up as a self-advocate or ally via: As a disability advocate, your help is needed to promote, protect and defend the human rights of people with disability.

And don’t forget to mark your calendars with these important dates!