Aimee Wehmeier

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A new proposal in Washington, D.C., threatens to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and reduce access to health care for the most vulnerable citizens, including people with disabilities.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., is moving quickly, seemingly to prevent policymakers and the public from having the time to debate and understand its implications. The sponsors are working under a tight deadline, because on Sept. 30, the budget rules that would allow the Senate to pass the bill with only 51 votes will expire. After that, a repeal bill will require 60 votes, which is highly unlikely, given the recent history of attempts to repeal the ACA.

The Cassidy-Graham bill, like all previous ACA repeal bills, would undermine the progress we’ve made in expanding health coverage. It would cause tens of millions of people to lose coverage, while costs would go up for millions more.

Medicaid coverage for at least 11 million people would be eliminated. The ACA’s marketplace subsidies – which help nearly 9 million people afford coverage – would be gone. Instead, states would get a much smaller, temporary block grant of money that would totally disappear in 2026.

Pre-existing conditions protections would be left to the whims of each state. In fact, a state could let insurers charge people with health conditions exorbitant, unaffordable premiums and sell plans that leave out essential benefits like maternity care and mental health care. People would quickly be priced out of the insurance market or be forced to buy inadequate coverage.

The core Medicaid program in all states – including Missouri – would be radically restructured and cut, putting care at risk for our most vulnerable neighbors: senior citizens, people with disabilities and families with children. Because the amount of money would be fixed each year, Missouri would be on the hook for any and all unexpected costs such as prescription drug price spikes or new medical treatments.

The bill would slash federal funding for health coverage for Missouri by hundreds of millions of dollars by 2026. Missouri is already reeling from severe budget shortfalls. People with disabilities are suffering because the state cut funding earlier this year for critical services that help people live independently in their homes. These service cuts put people at risk for more expensive, unnecessary hospitalizations and institutionalization.

Paraquad was founded more than 45 years ago, with a focus on building a system that protects and empowers people with disabilities. While this proposed legislation targets multiple vulnerable groups, people with disabilities would be severely impacted. Any bill that erodes access to health care for people with limited incomes, which is too often the case for people with disabilities, or that specifically cuts home- and community-based services for people with significant personal care needs, is a step back as a society.

For these reasons, Paraquad is opposed to the Cassidy-Graham proposal. In the short term, we call on Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to serve as champions for people with disabilities and reject this measure. Rather than destroying safeguards for the most vulnerable people, the long-term solution is a legislative focus on bipartisan efforts to strengthen our marketplace, control costs for consumers and preserve and expand coverage.

All Missourians deserve to live with dignity and respect, which requires access to affordable, quality health care.

Aimee Wehmeier is the President and CEO at Paraquad. She can be reached at awehmeier@paraquad.org.

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