Letters to the Editor

Letters: Medicaid cut threatens families living with disabilities

As a long-time advocate, I have never been more frightened for my 25 year old daughter’s welfare than I am right now. The U.S. Senate is moving rapidly toward a plan to cut and cap the Medicaid program, which will be devastating to people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD), like my daughter.

This concerns much more than health insurance. Many adults with disabilities are able to work, and live in regular communities (not segregated housing) only because of the home and community based services paid for by Medicaid. In the case of children, their parents are able to maintain employment because of the supports their children with disabilities receive. Over the last two decades funding for home and community-based services has grown because of widespread bipartisan support because disability knows no political, geographical, ethnic, or socioeconomic boundaries. In addition to skill building, these services provide dignity to people with I/DD through assistance with meals, bathing and dressing, toileting, in-home skilled nursing, and communication support, to name but a few.

The Senate is considering the same $830 billion cut to the Medicaid program as passed the House. We fear that because home and community based services are “optional” services, states will cut them first if confronted with this greatly reduced federal commitment. States may return to outdated modes of serving people with disabilities, congregating large numbers of individuals in facilities with inadequate staffing and no real-life opportunities. The per capita cap proposal will pave a path backwards to institutional care and segregated services.

Seventy one percent of North Carolinians with developmental disabilities or traumatic brain injury live at home with a family member. One in four caregivers are age 60 and up and increasingly need care and support themselves. Without proper supports, people with disabilities and caregivers might easily end up being more, not less, reliant on public assistance and costly crisis services.

Please call Sens. Burr and Tillis and urge them to protect Medicaid and to continue the 52 year commitment to providing health care and long term services and supports to persons with disabilities. There is indication that their minds are not necessarily made up on this matter, and they want to hear from voters. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if North Carolina made the difference in this crucial matter?

Betsy MacMichael

Executive director

First In Families of NC