Disability Advocates Wary Of Federal Spending Proposal
If it’s any hint of what’s to come, disability advocates say a draft proposal released this week by the chairs of a bipartisan commission on reducing the nation’s deficit is reason to be concerned.
The proposal, which comes from the chairs of President Barack Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, is short on specifics, but recommends sweeping changes to the tax code, entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicaid and a reduction in federal spending across the board.
The draft will serve as a launching point as the full commission — comprised of 12 members of Congress and six private citizens — prepares its final report, which is expected Dec. 1. At least 14 of the commission’s 18 members must approve the report for it to be sent to Congress for a vote.
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“There are huge concerns,” says Paul Marchand, director of the Disability Policy Collaboration, of the co-chairs’ proposal and its potential impact on people with disabilities. “When they say cut excess spending, who defines what’s excess? There are as many questions as answers.”
In particular, Marchand says some ideas about changing Medicaid could be especially harmful to Americans with disabilities. The co-chairs’ draft proposal includes higher co-pays for Medicaid services and a cap on the amount that the federal government contributes for some services.
What’s more, Marchand is concerned that there’s not any plan within the co-chair’s draft for the federal government to take in more money, which would likely translate to “huge pressures” on funding for all programs servicing those with developmental disabilities.
Marchand and other disability advocates stress that the draft released this week is merely a starting point with more specifics expected when the full commission report is unveiled in December. And even then it’s likely that it will be a while before any proposal becomes policy, they say.
Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, says he’s still hopeful that the full commission will consider ways to cut spending without sacrificing supports and services for those with disabilities.
“There’s a lot that can be done to significantly improve the situation for people with disabilities while reducing costs,” Ne’eman says, citing lower Medicaid costs in communities which have transitioned to community-based programs and supports, for example. “Obviously we’re going to to be watching this very closely.”