There is a lot of discussion around repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. The public is anxiously awaiting what our elected officials are going to do about health insurance for millions of Americans. I feel it is my duty as president / CEO of Carey Services, a provider of choice for services for individuals with disabilities and children and families in our Early Head Start program, to educate and increase awareness to an issue that hasn’t received nearly as much attention.
The large Medicaid cuts the US House and Senate are proposing will jeopardize critical care for individuals with disabilities and their families. The recent roll-out of the Senate version could have devastating consequences for individuals with disabilities and low income families not only in Indiana, but in every state.
When most people think of Medicaid, our nation’s safety net health care program and funding source for many of the services Carey Services provides, they think of services for very low-income children, mothers, and low-income workers. Those groups are deeply important to Carey Services, and I believe they will be negatively impacted if large cuts to Medicaid occur. It is important to know that a large amount of Medicaid spending occurs to help people with disabilities simply live their lives. Currently 79 percent of Medicaid recipients are children, adults with disabilities and seniors.
Carey Services is a community rehabilitation and Early Head Start provider in North Central Indiana. We provide programs and services such as early childhood education in classroom and home-based settings, day programming for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities, employment services for people with disabilities, residential programming, and other critical programs to help low income families and people with disabilities to be as independent as possible. The majority of the individuals we serve rely on Medicaid to help them receive these life-sustaining services. Without our services, they would not be able to be as independent as they can, living a meaningful life in the community.
As our country’s population of individuals with disabilities grows, the need for Medicaid long-term supports and services increases. Many of us at some point in our lives may be in need of critical long-term care services and Medicaid is the country’s only guaranteed provider.
Unfortunately, the proposed health care bill could change the trajectory of providing long-term care in homes and communities instead of institutions. By current report, the American Health Care Act could slash long-term Medicaid funding by $834 billion over 10 years by capping the federal government’s share and pushing these costs on to states. It seems that will not be a sustainable approach, and it will put many of the people we serve at risk. States could be forced to make choices that may deeply negatively impact those who depend upon Medicaid for their health and safety. Individuals with disabilities and low income families could lose the amount of care and service they receive or could be required to pay for services despite having income limitations that qualify them for Medicaid. The cost of insurance for individuals we serve could increase dramatically. Families seeking care for a loved one could encounter long wait lists for services, and cuts to provider rates will harm the long-term care workforce that is already stretched considerably.
It makes no sense to undermine the only long-term care option available to most Americans with disabilities just as our country undergoes a demographic shift to a growing group of people with disabilities and an older adult population. If we want to save Federal health care dollars, we should expand the most cost-effective care options instead of eliminating them. Medicaid-funded programs preserve the dignity and independence of people with disabilities and low-income families in North Central Indiana and across the state and country; they also save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year in avoided nursing home and other institutional costs.
The people we serve deserve better. We encourage our US House and Senate elected officials to reject cuts to Medicaid.
Jim Allbaugh — President & CEO, Carey Services