Washington, D.C. (July 12, 2011)– Today, a group of Americans who benefit from Medicaid services for people with disabilities—joined by representatives of the American Association of People with Disabilities and United Cerebral Palsy—met with officials in the White House. They shared their personal experiences with Medicaid, putting a human face on this critical resource for millions of Americans with disabilities and their families.
”Today’s meeting shows what is really at stake in negotiations about Medicaid—access to opportunity for millions of people across our country. President Obama has the potential to be a hero for millions of Americans with disabilities in this country. The president has often spoken about the need to look at the way policies affect real people. Today, Anna Liebenow and the Hetrick and Guzman families showed White House officials the real-world implications of proposed cuts to Medicaid. They are among the many Americans for whom Medicaid is a lifeline to opportunity, work, and a better life. Slashing Medicaid would amount to rolling back the clock on opportunity for people with disabilities and their families. America is better than that,” said AAPD’s President & CEO Mark Perriello. ”I believe President Obama is emboldened to continue to support Medicaid and stand up for everyday Americans in these negotiations.
”People with disabilities join all Americans in recognizing the need to tackle our national debt. There are alternative ways to reform Medicaid without gutting the vital supports that create real opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Stephen Bennett, President & Chief Executive Officer of United Cerebral Palsy. ”You wouldn’t try to make a car more fuel-efficient by reducing the amount of gasoline in the tank. Slashing Medicaid eliminates the ability for people with disabilities to go to work, stay with their families and contribute to the economic recovery.”
Bennett continues, ”Medicaid can receive a sensible tune-up that also achieves precisely what both parties want: a stronger economy and a reduced deficit while strengthening the hand of Americans with disabilities to be contributing members of society. To drastically reduce this vital support is short-sighted and wrong. We welcome the chance to be a part of the solution.”
- Anna Liebenow of Providence, Rhode Island. Anna uses a wheelchair due to MS. Through Medicaid, Anna receives personal assistance that enables her to volunteer in her community and work. She also serves on the board of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.
- Sue, Micah, and Nicholas Hetrick of Columbus, Ohio. Micah, 22, has Down syndrome. Medicaid provides assistance during the day while Sue is at work, supporting their family. Micah volunteers in their community and recently received his high school diploma. Nickolas, 27, recently completed his PhD and will teach English in Columbus in the fall.
- Linda and Javi Guzman of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Javi, 17, has autism and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a connective tissue disease. Through Medicaid, he has an aide during the day while Linda is at work. He also receives life skills training, transportation to community activities, and medical care.
The families met with the following White House officials: Jason Furman, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and the Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council; Keith Fontenot, Associate Director for Health Programs, Office of Management and Budget; John Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement; and Kareem Dale, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement & Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy.
During the meeting, participants described the benefits of Medicaid. ”Without Medicaid, people’s lives are so limited,” said Anna Liebenow. ”At the White House, we told the staff what cutting Medicaid would do to us and to the many people who did not have a chance to share their stories today.”
Linda Guzman explained how real families like hers can contribute to the national discussion about Medicaid: ”There are so many people who can relate to the struggle. It’s important that people see me as a parent who loves her child more than anything,” she said. ”If I didn’t have these services, I couldn’t go to work. Then what would my family do?” she added. Speaking about his trip to Washington to tell his story, Javi Guzman explained: ”I’m going to show the world what people with autism can do.”
Sue Hetrick spoke positively about the meetings: ”They were very open to hearing our stories,” she said. ”For generations, my family has been hard workers, and so have I. When I went to the White House and said this program is what keeps me working and gives Micah the opportunity to do the same, I showed them the real-world consequences of these decisions,” she added.
About United Cerebral Palsy
United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) educates, advocates and provides support services to ensure a life without limits for people with a spectrum of disabilities. Together with nearly 100 affiliates, UCP has a mission to advance the independence, productivity and full citizenship of people disabilities by supporting more than 176,000 children and adults every day—one person at a time, one family at a time. UCP works to enact real change—to revolutionize care, raise standards of living and create opportunities—impacting the lives of millions living with disabilities. For more than 60 years, UCP has worked to ensure the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in every facet of society. Together, with parents and caregivers, UCP will continue to push for the social, legal and technological changes that increase accessibility and independence, allowing people with disabilities to dream their own dreams, for the next 60 years, and beyond. For more information, please visit www.ucp.org.
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The American Association of People with Disabilities is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities.