With Medicaid on the table as budget talks heat up, the White House is initiating meetings with disability advocacy groups and families to discuss the program’s impact on everyday Americans.

Advocates from The Arc brought families from Virginia, Georgia, Texas and West Virginia to speak with four senior White House officials for one hour Wednesday in the first of the meetings.

“It was really clear that they were moved by what they heard,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc, about the reaction from Obama administration officials in attendance.

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The family members talked of having to quit jobs to care for loved ones and reaching limits on their private insurance policies due to the costs associated with particular disabilities, Berns said.

Carrin Brandt, a mother from Springfield, Va., told how just one day caring for her daughter Bailey, 10, would leave most people feeling like they were experiencing a huge crisis, Berns said. Yet Brandt attends daily to the needs of her daughter who has an uncontrolled seizure disorder, cerebral palsy and other health issues.

The families in attendance indicated that they rely on Medicaid to pay for everything from prescription drugs to community-based supports. Their meeting comes as lawmakers in Washington are considering changes to the government health care program in an effort to reduce the nation’s budget deficit. Disability advocates worry that this could bring an end to years of gains in community living opportunities.

When asked about the meetings, White House officials were keeping their cards close.

“As the White House routinely does, we meet with a wide range of stakeholders to discuss issues of concern,” spokesman Shin Inouye said, declining to go into further specifics.

Similarly, Berns said the administration staffers the families met with did not make any commitments, but listened intently.

Other disability organizations are expected to hold similar meetings with White House officials in the coming week.

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