Special Needs Families Meet With White House Officials to Oppose Medicaid Cuts

Congress and the President continue to discuss long-term solutions to our nation's fiscal puzzle, with many calling for significant changes to the Medicare and Medicaid programs. At a recent White House meeting, families of people with special needs had the opportunity to explain to some very high-ranking administration officials just how painful some of these proposed changes could be.

Medicaid is a joint partnership between states and the federal government that allows the states to run their own insurance programs so long as they follow certain minimum guidelines that are set by federal law. In general, the federal government reimburses each state for some of the Medicaid services that it provides to its Medicaid recipients, and the rate of reimbursement is calculated using a variable formula that depends in part on a state's per capita income. This means that the federal government pays different states different amounts of money for providing the same services. In April, President Obama proposed altering the way the federal government reimburses states for Medicaid services by replacing this variable system with a single rate. Congressional Republicans have gone further, backing a plan that would provide block grants that the states could spend on whatever services they deem to be important. In both cases, the proposed changes would result in service cuts because states would generally have less money available and more flexibility to spend it on more costly services, like long-term nursing home care. Disability advocates have argued that if history is a good indicator, states will cut services for people with special needs and mental illness rather than divert funds from other programs.

Several weeks ago, four families of people with special needs had the opportunity to tell White House officials just what those cuts would mean to actual Medicaid recipients. As the Arc explains in a press release describing the event, "Medicaid is crucial to the health, well-being, and future of these families, and without it, they would be forced to quit their jobs or sacrifice much of the progress their children have made with support from Medicaid." The families, who came from different regions of the country, each had compelling stories to tell. The Arc describes 18-month-old Graysen Keaton, who had "suffered two strokes, undergone three open heart surgeries, a feeding tube placement, multiple heart catheterizations, and he hit the $1 million cap on his mothers health insurance before he turned four months old." His care is currently covered by a Medicaid program for children with disabilities that would be endangered by budget cuts. Likewise, Medicaid pays for 31-year-old T.J. Rodriguez's home-care and visits with a variety of different specialists, allowing him to stay at home.

With budget talks still up in the air, and with any solution to the current debt crisis unlikely to address all of Medicaid's perceived shortcomings, advocates anticipate that this issue will probably not disappear any time soon. Your special needs planner keeps abreast of the latest developments and will let you know if any significant changes are in store.

The families met with: Kareem Dale, White House disability policy adviser; Jon Carson, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and deputy assistant to the President; Jeffrey Crowley, a senior adviser on disability policy; and Phil Schiliro, an assistant to the President and White House special adviser. To read more about the meeting, and to hear the stories of these strong families in the Arc's press release, click here.

To read about the Rodriguezes' story in a local Texas paper, click here.

Article Last Modified: 07/25/2011