Disability Activists Storm U.S. Supreme Court Demanding Support For The Affordable Care Act
Washington, D.C.— Hundreds of disability rights activists with the national group ADAPT have swarmed onto the plaza before the United States Supreme Court to demonstrate their support for the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court is currently deliberating whether to strike the Act down. ADAPT maintains that not only has the Act provided key protections against discrimination on the basis of disability in health care, but it provides for the Community First Choice Option, a federal Medicaid matching program whose rules were completed just yesterday.
ADAPT’s demonstration follows on the heels of two days of action on Capitol Hill. On Monday around 100 people were arrested at the Cannon House Office Building, protesting cuts to the House’s proposed Medicaid budget. Among the arrestees was film and tv actor Noah Wyle, formerly of ER and currently the star of Falling Skies. On Tuesday, ADAPT blitzed the US Department of Health and Human Services, winning a significant victory in the form of the issuance of the rules for the Community First Choice Option. ADAPT also confronted hotel industry lobbyists at a hearing on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations on swimming pools. The opposition of rules governing swimming pools is more widely seen as a potential avenue for weakening the interpretation of the ADA.
“The Affordable Care Act has done many good things for people with disabilities,” said Tim Sullivan of Chicago ADAPT. “People with pre-existing conditions will have health insurance. It directs the government to address health care disparities including for people with disabilities. And of course we believe the Community First Choice Option is critical. My right to live in the community should not be destroyed by political warfare over whether this law is unconstitutional.”
“We have to take a stand for the programs that improve the lives of people with disabilities and others who need Medicaid services to live in the community,” said Dawn Russell of Denver ADAPT. “We need the Supreme Court to recognize the decades of work that we have put into giving people with disabilities the legal tools to live in our communities with our families and friends, and not be forced into nursing homes.”
ADAPT was formed in 1984 around transit access, and began its focus on Medicaid community based services in 1992 after passage of the ADA, which legally affirmed that access to public transit is a civil right. The ADA, and a U.S. Supreme Court decision known as the Olmstead decision have both also affirmed that the right to live in the community is a civil right.
ADAPT will employ street theater and a mock “court” presentation of disability issues within the Affordable Care Act.
ADAPT Applauds Issuance Of Key Affordable Care Act Regulations
Washington, D.C.— On Tuesday, after months of pressure on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Medicaid division to release federal regulations for the Community First Choice (CFC) Option, the national grassroots disability rights group ADAPT stormed the HHS headquarters once again by surrounding its doors. This time, the protests yielded the long-awaited result: Cindy Mann, Director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations announced at 6 pm that she had just that very afternoon submitted the CFC Option regulations in final form to the Federal Register for publishing. The issuance of the regulations brings the possibility of much-needed Federal assistance to states struggling with massive Medicaid cuts.
“After almost two years of working to get the CFC Option in the Affordable Care Act and then waiting for the regulations, ADAPT truly is celebrating this moment,” said Bruce Darling of Rochester ADAPT. “We thank Ms. Mann and Henry Claypool, Principal Deputy Administrator of the Administration on Community Living, for working with us to see the regulations come out.” The CFC Option is a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would provide Federal matching dollars, plus an extra six percent, to states that amend their Medicaid state plans to provide home and community based services for people with disabilities who meet a certain level of need, determined by each state.
The completion of the regulations marks a high point in a saga of front line battles between advocates in the states and their respective Medicaid administrators. Most states, faced with the prospect of budget cuts in a time of austerity, have not committed to taking advantage of the CFC Option. Some, like Illinois and Montana, have held off on final decisions pending release of the CFC regulations. Others, like New York and California, have moved forward with planning for the CFC Option implementation. In states that have not made such a commitment, Medicaid administrators have met with ferocious grassroots pressure from ADAPT.
HHS itself became the main focus of ADAPT efforts once it was clear that the agency was working on the regulations. The Affordable Care Act provided the deadline of October 1, 2011 for the publication of the CFC rules. Once that date passed, tensions in the disability community ratcheted up as anxiety grew about whether the Administration would hold firm to its commitment to community living and Olmstead implementation for people with disabilities. The release of the regulations and the very recent formation of the Administration on Community Living are both viewed by ADAPT as positive developments.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Darling. “The release of the regulations means we will now have to work state by state to ensure that every person with a disability has the same access to community living as everyone else. We are not done, but for today this is a major policy and advocacy victory for disability rights.”