Disabled New Yorkers Fight to Preserve Healthcare

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Today, March 22, 2017, advocates from the Center for Disability Rights will be holding a press conference calling on Representative Collins, Read, and other Republican Congressional Members from New York to preserve critical components of the Affordable Care Act which secures the rights of people with disabilities to live in the community and provide vital healthcare services. The press conference is at 2pm at the Center for Disability Rights, 497 State Street, Rochester NY.

“Without my attendant services, I would be forced back into a nursing home. I already spent too many years of my life in a nursing home and fought hard to get out. The proposed repeal will cap Medicaid and likely force me back into an institution where I don’t want or need to be,” said Bobbi Wallach from Webster, NY.

Congressional Republicans are moving legislation that eliminates the Community First Choice Option (CFCO) by 2020 as part of a strategy to cut Medicaid funding for disabled individuals. CFCO, which was introduced as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is the only current Medicaid program aimed at ensuring disabled people’s right to live in the community. By providing enhanced Federal funds to states that have adopted the program, CFCO gives Medicaid beneficiaries greater access to home- and community-based services, enabling them to live in their communities rather than in expensive nursing facilities or institutional settings that rob them of their civil rights and fundamental liberties. CFCO saves states millions of taxpayer dollars and grant disabled citizens the freedom to decide where they want to live.

In the states that have implemented it, CFCO has become a vital tool in moving disabled people out of nursing facilities and other institutions and into their own homes. Members of the Disability Community have expressed concerns that GOP is using CFCO and block grants to play partisan politics without consideration for the many people with disabilities whose lives are hanging in the balance.

“Living in the community shouldn’t be like winning the lottery,” said Kenyatta DaCosta. “We shouldn’t have to be lucky to live in the community and politicians should not be moving forward with a healthcare plan that would put our right to liberty at risk.”

The concern is that in capping or block granting Medicaid congressional Republicans are setting limits on how many disabled people can transition from institutions into the community, and eliminating CFCO restores the Medicaid bias toward institutionalization that the Disability Community has long fought to reverse.

The right to live in the community was first recognized in Federal law in the Supreme Court’s 1999 Olmstead v. LC case. The years since have seen the growth of centers for independent living as Disability Rights organizations have made community integration one of their primary concerns.