Disabled Lives are Worth More Than Tax Cuts!

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Adam Prizio

Below is the statement that I read at today’s event in front of Congressman Faso’s office in Kinderhook. About a dozen brave souls from different parts of the district stood in the cold for an hour holding signs. Then we went inside and delivered the NDLA Letter on AHCA to Faso’s staff. — ap

Hello! Thank you for coming! We are here in Kinderhook, New York, outside of Congressman John Faso’s district office, to let him know that his constituents will be hurt and killed by the American Health Care Act, and to ask him to vote against the AHCA tomorrow on the floor. We are all disability rights advocates and many of us are disabled people. We are here because this is a life and death issue for us.

Disabled people and seniors are a small percentage of the Medicaid population, but the services we require are expensive and Medicaid is the primary payer for those services. This means that when AHCA cuts Medicaid funding, states are going to cut services for the expensive people, the disabled people and seniors. Not even a decade ago, Republicans claimed to be against death panels, but this week they are falling over themselves to vote for a bill that as much as mandates them.

AHCA gives states the “flexibility” to decide that disabled people should die if they cannot work. This is not worthy of the words of our Pledge of Allegiance, of the motto on our money, or the ideals of our country’s founding as a place where all men are created equal and endowed with the inalienable right to freedom. AHCA gives disabled people the “freedom” to die unattended and alone.

Congressman Faso voted for this bill, when it was before him in Committee. He then put his name on an amendment to the bill. Okay, maybe he’s heard us. Maybe he will champion the poor, disabled, and elderly people in his district who will be hurt or killed by the bill.

Nope. His amendment moves the taxes around a bit. It does nothing to protect the people who elected him in this district, or the American people around the country who rely on Medicaid for basic services. I’ll put a finer point on it: Congressman Faso is willing to amend the bill to address taxes for some New Yorkers, but is perfectly happy with it letting disabled New Yorkers die.

This is not an exaggeration. Medicaid pays for a wide range of services and supports for disabled individuals and seniors:

  • The community habilitation worker who takes developmentally disabled individuals to the grocery store;
  • The attendant that supports an elderly woman staying in her home;
  • The custom wheelchair and speech-board — like those used by Stephen Hawking — that makes college and employment possible for a young woman with muscular dystrophy;
  • The ventilator used by the young man who became a quadriplegic on the football field.

Medicaid pays for attendants to reposition people who are not able to transfer themselves from bed to a chair. Without repositioning, people quickly develop bedsores. Without attention, bedsores quickly become septic. People die. People who, with attendant services, could work and raise families and lead a long and full life in the community, will die of simple preventable health deteriorations. For many in our community, Medicaid is all that stands between us and preventable death.

And Congressman Faso has voted, and has said he will vote again tomorrow, for this bill which strips Medicaid funding from the States. Which leaves disabled New Yorkers right here in New York’s 19th District exposed.

This is not acceptable. This is not a vote worthy of any statesman, Republican or Democrat. It is not a Republican or a Democratic ideal to leave people to die just because they are disabled. It is not a Republican or a Democratic ideal to withdraw services which prevent hospitalization and death. It is not a Republican or a Democratic ideal to require people to impoverish themselves when they become disabled, simply in order to live with the services they need. No less a conservative than Ronald Reagan understood this, when as President he created the Home and Community Based Service Waivers which support the independence of many in the disability community.

The American Health Care Act is un-American. It comes out of a false and dangerous belief that money is more important than people, that disabled lives are acceptable losses in the service of tax cuts for the wealthy. Sacrificing disabled lives is deadly discrimination. It is not the equality and liberty which are the founding ideals of this great nation and the guarantee and birthright of all Americans under our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

Congressman Faso, shame on you for voting for this bill in Committee. Shame on you for leaving your disabled constituents out when you amended the bill this week. And shame on you if you vote tomorrow to take away the services that keep thousands of your disabled constituents alive.

Protectors lined up with their large posters to show their protest against the cut to medicaid.

protestors holding up signages. One said, "Taxcuts for wealthy, Death for disabled." Another sign said, "Save Medicaid."