PERSPECTIVES | What the repeal of Obamacare means for people with disabilities

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017
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The Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill was the Republican party’s most recent attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare, or the ACA). It contained four controversial “flash points” that affect people with disabilities, including coverage of pre-existing conditions and essential health benefits, clarity of insurance options, and changes to Medicaid.

While the ACA requires insurers to cover pre-existing conditions without charging higher premiums, the proposed GOP bill would have given states the power to waive that requirement. Many types of disabilities would be considered pre-existing conditions which could have led to substantially higher healthcare costs for families in waiver states. It would also have given states the ability to opt out of the ACA’s 10 “essential health benefits,” such as mental health and rehabilitative services for people with disabilities, as well as maternity care. All the Congressional wrangling has created a lot of uncertainty for insurers and the families they cover.

The issue of biggest concern to individuals with disabilities may be Medicaid funding cuts that could leave millions of Americans without coverage. Independence for people with disabilities is vital to ensuring that they are fully engaged in family and community life, and in the workplace. Medicaid funding currently makes living and working independently possible for millions of people with disabilities by providing home- and community-based services.

On Monday morning, disability rights activists from ADAPT filled the halls of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in protest during the Obamacare repeal hearing. Police ordered them to leave — some did and some were removed. By the afternoon, Maine Republican Susan Collins announced her plan to vote “no” on the repeal, joining Senators John McCain of Arizona and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Lacking the votes needed, yesterday afternoon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulled the bill from the Senate floor. However, the White House immediately stated it still plans to find a way to repeal and replace the ACA.