Health Care Proposal Raises Concerns from Disability Rights Groups

Health Insurance, bills, stethoscope, calculator, cash money

by Andy Jones
March 18, 2017

Disability advocates are voicing opposition to a new policy brief, distributed by the House Republican Leadership last month, which aims to repeal the Affordable Care Act and slash Medicaid-funded services for people with disabilities.

“We urge the House Republican leadership to offer a plan that protects people with disabilities from the discrimination they experienced prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and to ensure people with disabilities will have access to health care and support services,’ the letter states, dated February 23. “Health care coverage that does not include durable medical equipment; rehabilitative, habilitative, and mental health services; and preventative services will greatly harm the health and well-being of people with disabilities.”

The letter, signed by the National Disability Rights Network, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities focuses on three specific items in the 19-page policy brief.

First, the proposal would “block grant” Medicaid,” thus creating a system where each state's allotment of federal Medicaid spending would be capped. The disability rights groups argue that this system would eventually lead to the exclusion of medically necessary treatments and further increase waiting lists for needed services. In 2014, almost 600,000 people were awaiting home and community based services, the letter states.

Second, the policy brief puts an increased focus on health care savings accounts. In the letter, the disability advocates argue that this option is unreasonable for many low income individuals and people with disabilities, and would nonetheless only cover a fraction of many of their health care costs.

Third, the proposal, as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act’s health care exchanges, pushes for the creation of so-called “high risk pools,” for people with high health care costs. The disability rights groups counter that without substantial federal funding, these pools are unlikely to attract enough funding from patients to provide affordable services.

The full letter can be read here.

Disability Rights Washington is the designated protection and advocacy agency in Washington and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.