[NFBOK-Talk] Saving Medicaid is critical to America's blind

Jeanie Massay jeannie.massay at nfbok.org
Sat Jun 24 00:08:58 UTC 2017

Saving Medicaid is critical to America's blind

Mark A. Riccobono

The Hill - 6/23/2017


For more than fifty years Medicaid has provided much-needed security and
stability to some of America's most disempowered people. Especially for
people with disabilities, Medicaid has been and remains an essential
lifeline. That lifeline is under attack in the form of Draconian cuts
proposed by both the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the current
administration's proposed budget. These cuts would, without exaggeration,
upend millions of lives.


One community in particular - the blind - would be disproportionately and
negatively affected if the more than $1 trillion in proposed Medicaid cuts
came to fruition. According to an analysis of the cuts, upwards of seven
hundred thousand people with disabilities would lose access to health
insurance as a result of cuts to Medicaid. Based on the ratio of blind
people currently using Medicaid relative to the total population of disabled
people using Medicaid, more than one hundred thousand blind people would
lose insurance, making these proposed cuts a potential catastrophe for blind
people everywhere.


The National Federation of the Blind, the oldest and largest nationwide
organization of blind people in the United States, strongly and
unequivocally opposes cuts to Medicaid. These proposed cuts would undermine
the security, stability, and prosperity of more than one hundred thousand
blind people in this country. This is an untenable prospect and we
categorically reject it.  

Whether it is a poverty rate twice the national average or an employment
rate less than half the national level, the blind already face significant
challenges in attaining the American dream. To strip health insurance from
so many blind people would serve only to erect additional barriers and
obstacles to our efforts to achieve that dream. Blind households would
suddenly face drastically higher costs and strained budgets, exacerbating
the preexisting challenges of high poverty and low employment.


Medicaid, which provides insurance to an estimated 1.4 million blind people,
is a vital component of our continuing effort to promote opportunity and
prosperity in our community. We thus call upon members of the United States
Senate to oppose any bill that proposes cuts to Medicaid of the type
contained in the AHCA and the current administration's budget. We especially
call upon the senators from the eleven states in which at least 40 percent
of people with disabilities rely on Medicaid for health insurance to vote no
on any legislation that would imperil the economic stability and family
security of their blind constituents. Namely, senators from the states of
California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New
Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia should join us in
opposing any cuts to Medicaid. To vote in favor of such cuts would be to
resign tens of thousands of blind people to a life of economic uncertainty
and hardship.


When President Lyndon B. Johnson and former President Harry S. Truman stood
alongside each other to commemorate the passage of the Social Security
Amendments Act of 1965, the legislation that established both Medicare and
Medicaid, it was clear that something historic and revolutionary had just
happened. By extending access to health insurance to those who may not have
access to it otherwise, Congress codified the idea that health insurance is
an indispensable element of economic security and made it a reality. As a
result, since 1965, millions of blind Americans have been able to live more
stable and productive lives. To fundamentally undermine the Medicaid program
would be to substantially roll back much of that progress. We sincerely hope
that the Congress of today, and the Senate will not dishonor the legacy of
its forbearers and in doing so, make it harder for we in the blind community
to live the kind of lives we want.






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