Families with disabilities say Medicaid cuts could be ‘devastating’

GOP plan would create 'per-capita caps' on funding

Disability groups in Wisconsin are meeting with lawmakers this week, including U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, to express concerns about the American Health Care Act.

The groups say the per-capita cap on Medicaid funding will lead to less money for disability programs in the future, and could in turn lead to a reduction in services for children and adults, including the elderly.

“Our national advocate friends are telling us this is the most significant decision being made for Medicaid funding in the last 50 years,” said Lisa Pugh, state director of The Arc Wisconsin.

Pugh says more than 20 programs are funded in part by Medicaid across the state that help young and old with disabilities. That includes the IRIS program, which helps adults with disabilities stay in their homes and receive community-based services.

“We have people with significant disabilities living a quality life in Wisconsin and under a per-capita cap, will that money be enough?” Pugh said. “I think a lot of people say the answer is no.”

Kelli Simpkins says Medicaid programs help her 14-year-old son Mickey by supporting everything from therapies, personal and respite care and prescriptions.

“One of them I know for certain is $1,900 a month,” Simpkins said. “If we had that burden we would be homeless because we couldn’t possibly continue something like that.”

She says in the long term, if services were cut, it would make her son less able to live an independent life in the community.

“People in the community should know it would just be devastating to a family with a person who has a disability,” Simpkins said.

Pugh says she’s concerned that if cuts are made, the burden would be pushed to state lawmakers to make changes, which would be unclear.

“The state is left to decide, do we cut programs, do we cut services, do we make people eligible today not eligible tomorrow, are we going to cover kids, are we going to cover kids with significant disabilities?” Pugh said. “I think a lot of those decisions that are concerning are pushed down to the state to make.”

A spokesman for Ryan said he met with disability group leaders in Wisconsin Monday to discuss their concerns, but still believes that changes proposed “will protect the most vulnerable by strengthening Medicaid and giving power back to the states, and allow states, like Wisconsin, to create plans to best meet the specific needs of their citizens.”

Simpkins says she sees it differently.

“I think when you cut this amount of money from people who depend on it that there may be unintended consequences for families like mine,” Simpkins said. “I just don’t see a way around it.”

Gov. Scott Walker, who has proposed eliminating one waiting list for long-term care for children with disabilities, says he is advocating for the disabled.

“Governor Walker has strongly advocated for Wisconsin’s elderly and disabled in his meetings in Washington, knowing that Medicaid costs for these people should be prioritized and fully covered,” a spokesman said in a statement Monday.