Happy New Year --By Julie Reiskin
As 2016 wraps up, there is much that is unknown about 2017. At the top of our minds and agenda at CCDC is what happens to Medicaid as a result of political feuding about the Affordable Care Act. While we agree that there are parts of the ACA that need to be changed, there are other parts that are very helpful. CCDC has many members that have benefited from the Medicaid expansion that came with the ACA. We have a greater number of members that benefit from Medicaid in general (non-expansion)—and for our members, the benefit is not just a financial benefit—it is life and death.
There is a reason for Medicaid, at least for our community. Traditional insurance does not work for many people with disabilities. It does not cover long-term services or supports. Traditional insurance is based on fixing health problems, not providing daily support to maintain or even to reduce unavoidable deterioration. Our number one priority for 2017 is protecting Medicaid in its current state. There are some proposals for block granting Medicaid. While knowing the details of any block granting proposal would be essential, at this time we cannot see any situation where block granting would be a good thing for our community because it would mean less money.
Block granting would have people with disabilities competing against other groups including elderly and children for limited dollars. It might also mean that protections that we use regularly now may not continue. For example, today if you lose Medicaid eligibility (often a mistake made or computer error) and you file an appeal, you are allowed to keep your benefits until the case is sorted out and goes through a hearing. Under a block grant, protections like these are not guaranteed.
I would be lying if I did not say I was nervous about the political climate nationally. However, being nervous, even scared, is not an excuse to be irresponsible. CCDC leaders recently agreed to the following:
1) We will act on facts –and only on facts. With “fake news” and rumors abounding, this can be difficult. We ask our members if you hear something but are not sure if it is real, ask us to check it out. We will be keeping track of rumors and staff will work at seeking accurate information to counter or verify any rumors. If we can verify information and the information is going to hurt our community, we will provide suggested actions. This leads to the next agreement.
2) We must act: The stakes are high and there is no time for games or petty arguments. When we know for a fact that there is a danger that could be life or death or could cause loss of civil right for anyone, we must act. CCDC will do our best to be inclusive as we create messaging, action plans, etc., but sometimes we have to act fast. To participate, please contact Dawn Howard, our community organizer at DHoward@ccdconline.org. We have a system of communication for our active advocates and how much we all use this will determine the success of how we act together. When we put out a call for action, such as meeting with your legislator or making a call or showing up somewhere –please make every effort to do it.
3) We must be kind to each other: It is easy to criticize others for what they do or do not do. It is harder to be understanding and empathetic at all times. We are all human and we will all make mistakes. Let’s agree that we will assume the best intentions on behalf of each other in our own community. Kindness, however, must extend outside of our own community or what we think is our community. Other communities are afraid and suffering also. In every community there are members of our community---often invisible to everyone. If we are going to practice what we preach we must advocate for social justice everywhere. It is for this reason that the CCDC Board is creating a specific outreach program to make sure our organization is open and welcoming to immigrants and refugees with disabilities.
Everyone is talking about how divided our country is---and everyone is also bemoaning the fact that no one listens to anyone that is different. Each of us can do something about this—even if it is lunch. Please see https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_lesser_take_the_other_to_lunch Our community can and must be a role model on how to practice equity, how to be inclusive but we can only do that if we all continue to work on our own implicit biases.
Disability can be a great unifier… we are part of every community. Our issues are not solely Democratic or Republican. If we can develop relationships and get those in power to have empathy (not sympathy) and understand how disability is part of the normal human experience, we will be able to explain our positions and help people understand why we feel so strongly about issues like Medicaid, why the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is so important and how most of us just want to contribute as responsible citizens. They will understand the difference between reasonable accommodations and special treatment. They will understand that while we do need government supports to survive, when we get these supports, we can and do give back in spades. They will understand that we do not need “incentives” to work, we just need to not be fatally punished for trying.
As we move into the New Year, let’s remember how far we have come—and how far we have to go for true equality. Despite my fears and knowledge of how high the stakes are, I know that our community will continue to advocate that all human beings should have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I have a feeling our community will be required to show our strength, leadership, creativity and compassion during 2017. The CCDC Board and Staff stand ready to support you –our members—to advocate for social justice as if your life depends on it-because it does.