By Bob Allen
Faith leaders hand-delivered letters Dec. 11 asking 115 members of Congress to oppose funding cuts to Medicaid that they believe could harm Americans with disabilities.
Talks in Washington to avert an impending fiscal cliff have pitted Democrats’ call for increased funding against Republican proposals to cut entitlement programs like Medicaid, a jointly funded, federal-state health insurance program for low-income and needy people created by amendments to the Social Security Act in 1965.
The Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition, a non-partisan effort to mobilize the religious community to speak out and take action on disability issues with Congress, say proposals to cut Medicaid through block grants or global spending caps could force a reduction in long-term services for people with disabilities.
Medicaid’s $389 billion budget serves the health-care needs of some 60 million low-income Americans. According to the IDAC, it is the primary funding stream for long-term services that serve 3 million people with physical, mental and cognitive disabilities, many of them children.
“We acknowledge the need for the country to address the growing federal debt,” 27 coalition members and other national relgious organizations said in the letter targeting key lawmakers. “However, we believe that any deficit reduction efforts must take into account the importance of Medicaid as a solid foundation to permit people with disabilities to live independent productive lives in their communities.”
The faith leaders said a loss of long-term services could lead to unnecessary institutionalization, removing individuals with disabilities from society and limiting their ability to contribute economically, socially, politically and spiritually.
“Public policy decisions that would isolate individuals from society and their places of worship must be challenged to the extent that they unnecessarily limit the choices, opportunities and independence of older adults and people with disabilities,” said Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, managing director of resource development for American Baptist Home Mission Societies, a signatory of the letter.
“Deficit reduction efforts should take into account the importance of Medicaid as a solid foundation for people with disabilities living in community,” Ramsey-Lucas said. “As a nation we must work toward sensible deficit reduction rooted in shared sacrifice that does not jeopardize the care and well being of people with disabilities who rely upon Medicaid.”