The Arc Commends Senator Franken’s Commitment to Protecting Medicaid

WASHINGTON, DC – The Arc is commending Senator Al Franken of Minnesota for pledging to protect the federal Medicaid program. Senator Franken met recently with leaders and members from The Arc Minnesota and with families who benefit from programs provided by Hammer, a disability service provider in Wayzata, Minnesota. Invoking the late Senator Hubert Humphrey, Franken said, “Who we are as a society both in Minnesota and across this country is defined by how we treat the most vulnerable. The kind of state Minnesotans want to live in is one that supports our citizens with disabilities. I will fight cuts to Medicaid that don’t protect these essential services.”

Medicaid is the primary source of health care coverage for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), providing them medical care, dental care, physical therapy, and assistive devices like wheelchairs, among others. Medicaid currently covers 60 million low-income Americans including nearly 30 million low-income children, 15 million adults and 8 million non-elderly people with disabilities. The program is being threatened by cuts proposed by some in Congress.

“Medicaid is the lifeline to the community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Marty Ford, Public Policy Director for The Arc. “We cannot tolerate the kinds of cuts to Medicaid being proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives. We are very worried these cuts would return people with disabilities to institutions, which unacceptably segregate people and are generally more expensive. We have fought hard for many decades to get people with disabilities out of these institutions; we don’t want to go back.”

The House of Representatives passed a budget plan, known as the Ryan Plan after its author, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, in April that cuts programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The bill includes drastic cuts and changes to:

  • Medicaid: Cuts $750 billion over 10 years and ends Medicaid as a guaranteed benefit by turning it into a “block grant” that leaves cash-strapped states to fill in the funding gaps with very little oversight.
  • Medicare: Replaces Medicare with a voucher program for younger beneficiaries that will certainly provide less than the current system.
  • Discretionary Programs: Eliminates, over time, most federal government programs outside of health care, Social Security, and defense as the cuts are so deep.
  • Health Care Reform: Repeals and defunds the Affordable Care Act.

Pat Mellenthin, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc Minnesota expressed gratitude for Senator Franken’s support. “We thank Senator Franken for his willingness to be a champion for people with disabilities by protecting Medicaid. The proposed cuts to Medicaid at the federal level are a double blow to people with disabilities, as they are already being targeted for drastic cuts in their services at the state level.”

Tim Nelson, CEO of Hammer and President of The Arc Minnesota, also praised the Senator’s commitment. “The services that we provide help people with disabilities be included in our communities and help them become contributing citizens. Cuts being proposed to Medicaid would pull people out of our communities and make them more isolated.” Hammer’s services are funded by a combination of state Medical Assistance and federal Medicaid dollars.

The Arc advocates for and serves people with I/DD, including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 700 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.