BY DOUG STEPHENS AND MIKE SMITH
The Republican plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act would squeeze out funding for home and community-based services (HCBS), which enable more than 3 million vulnerable seniors, adults and children with disabilities to stay in their homes and communities. The proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) would cut federal Medicaid spending by $834 billion over the next decade. The impact of these cuts will be swift and severe: Within 10 years 14 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage.
I’m a home health aide for Mike Smith. Mike is 54 years old, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Mike works at the Center on Disability and Human Development at the University of Idaho 12 hours every week, lives independently in his own apartment and is active in the community. Mike lives life so fully because of HCBS services. Mike shares his story below:
I have a Rehab Tech that provides me with personal care from a home health agency. My disability makes help with bathing, cooking, eating, dressing, household chores and help at my job a necessity. These home and community-based services (HCBS) are supported through Idaho Medicaid and Medicare.
I am dependent on these services in order to live in my own home. If I had to move to an institution it would be detrimental to my mental health. I have been in a nursing home before. I am a very independent person involved in advocacy for people with disabilities and I would not be able to use my voice the way I do if I was in an institution. I like living in my own apartment. I work hard to support myself the best I can. I work hard to give back to the community and I like to travel to advocate for all Idahoans with disabilities, which requires me to live independently and could not be done living in an institution.
I have medicine that I take that Medicaid pays for and it’s very expensive. I could not afford it on my own and it would cause extreme discomfort for me if I didn’t have it. I want to tell Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch to vote against the American Health Care Act. Not just for me, but for the thousands of Idahoans whom it would hurt. Idahoans with disabilities have been down this road before. I’m tired of fighting over this same issue every four years. Why do I have to fight to live on my own? I’m like every other American. It doesn’t make any sense to pass this bill because it would cost more for me to live in an institution.
Only the Senate can stop these harmful cuts from taking place.
Sens. Crapo and Risch, I’ll do my job if you do yours: by working with health care providers to protect Medicaid for these families, increase access to HCBS to millions more, and ensure that our most vulnerable residents are taken care of, where and when they need it.
Mike Smith lives in Moscow and works at the Center on Disability and Human Development at the University of Idaho. He served on the Idaho Council for Developmental Disabilities for nine years and participated in the council’s development program, Idaho Partners in Policymaking.
Doug Stephens is a Rehab Tech for ANS. He works with Mike five days a week for six hours each day.