Disability-rights group protests at Ryan’s office over Medicaid

Several hundred demonstrators with disabilities gathered outside Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office Tuesday to protest his budget’s proposed reduction in Medicaid funding.

Nearly 300 members of the national disability-rights group ADAPT — many in wheelchairs — initially lined up outside the Longworth building, and a dozen congregated inside the House Budget chairman's second-floor office. By late afternoon, Capitol Police had arrested about 10.
 

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Protester Michael Ervin, a long-time member of ADAPT, traveled from Chicago to demand lawmakers not slash Medicaid funding as part of the House-passed plan to pare federal spending by $5.8 trillion over the next decade. The Ryan budget would cut Medicaid’s funding by about a quarter by converting it into block grants to the states.
 
“A lot of us depend on Medicaid for very important things besides durable medical equipment, which is things like wheelchairs, crutches, prosthetics,” Ervin said. “Even more so, a lot of us depend on it for the assistance we get every day to live in our communities.”

Lawmakers say the plan give “states more flexibility, but that’s like saying Jim Crow laws give states more flexibility to decide who gets to drink at their drinking fountains,” Ervin said. “Flexibility is basically a code word for abandonment.”

Hundreds of demonstrators were lining the hall outside Ryan's office when at least two dozen Capitol Police officers responded. The protesters were chanting, "We want Ryan. No more block grants." About 10 were removed.

Liberal groups oppose the trimming of entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Last week, AARP released a policy paper saying the budget proposal would stand in the way of innovative programs to improve care for Medicaid recipients, and the proposal would hit elderly low-income individuals particularly hard.
 
“With the proposal to block-grant Medicaid ... the result is there is increasingly less money available to provide services,” Bruce Darling, an organizer for ADAPT, told The Hill. “We’re deeply concerned that home- and community-based services for people with disabilities and older Americans [will be] cut.”
 
An “institutional bias” could lead those affected to go without services, or be forced into institutional settings, Darling added.
 
“We believe as Americans with disabilities, and older Americans, that we have the same rights as any other American and we should be able to enjoy liberty, justice and all of those wonderful things,” Darling said. “We shouldn’t be locked up and forced into institutions.”
 
Tuesday’s ADAPT protest at Longworth follows a demonstration of several hundred Monday in the Cannon Office Building's rotunda, in which 91 ADAPT members were arrested. A Capitol Police spokeswoman told The Hill that those arrested were processed in the Rayburn office building; they were charged with unlawful conduct.
 
Ryan's office did not offer immediate comment on the protest. Members of ADAPT said they plan to continue their demonstration around the Capitol Wednesday, but have yet to announce specifically where they plan to congregate.

This post was updated at 4:26 p.m.

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